Wednesday, May 30, 2007

64128 Pte William Stevens, 8th MGC

William Stevens was born at Chailey and living at Hunts Cottage, Scaynes Hill when he attested at Hayward’s Heath on the 23rd February 1916.  His attestation was approved at Chichester on the 24th June 1916 and he was posted to the 28th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers three days later where he was given the regimental number 11275.  At the time of his attestation he was single, aged 20 years and 11 months and working as a steam thresher.  His father, John Stevens, was noted as William's next of kin and at some point during William's service the family moved from Hunts Cottage to Tunis House, The Green, Newick.

On 1st September 1916 William was transferred to the 104th Training Reserve Battalion and then transferred again, on the 12th October 1916, to the Machine Gun Corps where he was issued with a new regimental number, 64128.

Chailey Parish Magazine first notes him in November 1916 as Pte W Stevens, serving with the 104th Training Reserve Battalion, Royal Fusiliers in Scotland.  

William proceeded overseas on the 30th December 1916 and was posted to the 27th MGC on the 10th January 1917. He was admitted to hospital with trench fever on the 3rd March 1917 and was wounded by shrapnel in the head and right leg on the 31st May 1917. He spent five days at No 42 Casualty Clearing Station before being discharged to duty. 

William Stevens, by now serving with the 8th Battalion, MGC was reported missing on Monday 27th May 1918 and this was duly reported in Chailey Parish Magazine which noted him missing between August 1918 and July 1919. In fact, it was not until April 1919 that the War Office officially accepted that William had been killed on 27th May the previous year. His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Soissons memorial (below, courtesy of Colin Roberts) in France.

In June 1919, William's surviving family members were noted as his father, John Stevens; brothers Albert Stevens (aged 32) and George Stevens (aged 21, serving with the Army of Occupation) and sisters Clara Stevens (aged 24) and Margaret Moon (aged 27).

William Stevens is commemorated in two Sussex locations.  His name is on the war memorial on the village green at Chailey and also on a stone tablet and wooden shrine inside St Augustines Church, Scaynes Hill. The information contained at Scaynes Hill notes that he was a corporal (which is incorrect) and that he was killed on the Chemin des Dames.  His inclusion on the Chailey war memorial appears to have been an afterthought. His name appears at the bottom of the list of names as W Stevens and is out of alphabetical sequence.  It seems probable that, like Frederick Albert Jon Wood, his name was added at a later date. 

William Stevens appears on the 1901 census of England as the six year old son of John and Sarah Stevens of Wapsbourne Farm Cottage, Sheffield Park, Chailey.  His brothers Albert and George and his cousins William H Stevens, Frank Stevens and James Stevens (all mentioned in Chailey Parish Magazine) also served during the First World War.

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