PoppyHRFHS Area Servicemen Who lost Their Lives in WWI, December 1917

Click on the link: WWI Killed in Action Dec 1917

Each month, one of those who gave their lives is researched in order to present a short biography. These few brave servicemen are representative of the many not only in this little corner of the Country but across the World. They are ordinary men who had dreams and hopes and they left behind ordinary families whose dreams and hopes were shattered. This month it is:

William Charles CHEESEMAN


Photo courtesy of Adrian Phillips

 Private 265052, William Charles Cheeseman, 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regt., was born in Bodiam in the Autumn of 1888. He was baptised in the village on 14th October when only days old. His father, Stephen Jonas Cheeseman was not a local man but born and raised in Beenham, Berkshire. He moved south to Tonbridge where he married his first wife, Charlotte Judge, in 1863. Stephen found work as a coachman in Bodiam where they settled with their four children. Sadly, Charlotte died in January 1877 when their youngest was still under 5-years-old.

Our hero’s mother, Margaret Thompson, of Heathfield was quite likely in service in Bodiam when she met and quite soon married Stephen in 1878. They had four children, the youngest being William. By this time, fortunes changed for the better in the Cheeseman family when Stephen became the landlord of the Junction Arms in Bodiam. This would have been in some ways a “retirement” as he was already in his sixties. He became established among the locals in the village but died, aged 70, in 1907. William was 18-years-old at that time and there were two of his older sisters still at home to help out their widowed mother who took on the licence of the inn.

William was a general labourer when he enlisted in his mid-twenties. He may have joined the local Royal Sussex Regiment at the outset or possibly entered the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment from the beginning. Either way, it was in the Lincolnshire that he fought bravely in Flanders before losing his life in the Capture of Bourlon Wood in the Battle of Cambrai, France. This Battle is generally considered the one in which the British first used tanks to a great extent. William was killed in action 2nd December 1917 and he is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial. He was buried at Zonnebeke, Arrondissement Ieper, West Flanders, Belgium.

Personal effects returned to his mother, Margaret Cheeseman, at the Junction Inn after the War included £4 12s 3d. He left £163 2s 9d to his mother in his will, indicating he had managed to accrue a reasonable amount in his relatively few years. What potential he had that was torn away from him and his family can only be imagined. His mother, Margaret, died in Bodiam in 1924, aged 78.

William had an older brother, Maurice, who survived the War, married and raised a small family in Horsham. Both of William’s sisters, Ellen and Florence married in Bodiam just before and during WWI. Florence married Ernest Schilling in 1912 and the couple travelled, ending up in the United States where she was naturalised in 1946. She died in California in 1974. Ellen married Walter Fieldwick in 1915 and had a child in Britain before emigrating to USA in 1924, the year of her mother’s death.

The future was positive for the Cheesemans William left behind but they, like so many other bereaved families, would never overcome the huge loss.

 The full list for the duration of WWI can be found in the Members’ Area. If you are a member simply log in and scroll the Resources section. If you are not a member why not consider joining? Go to: http://www.hrfhs.org.uk/details-rates/

You may well wish to search for photographs of those lost and there is an ideal website which provides just that – all those lost from the area are included. Pictures of the fallen were published in the Hastings Advertiser at the time and these have been painstakingly collated by Kieron Pelling. You can visit the website:http://www.ww1rollofhonour.co.uk

NB Kieron Pelling is not a member of the HRFHS and the Society has no interest in his website other than to recommend it.

Return here to find those in following months as the commemoration anniversary arrives