Monday, July 11, 2011

William J Butters

It's always a real treat when I hear from a relative of one of the men or women I've spent so many years researching; even more so when there's a photo to put to that name.

I recently received an email from Jonathan Butters who is the great-grandson of William Butters of the 20th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment. William was a patient at Hickwells in 1915 and would die of tuberculosis in January 1920 leaving a widow and nine children. In my write-up on the Chailey 1914-1918 site I omitted one child, George Butters, who was born in late 1909 and who died in infancy in September 1912.

William married Clara Ann Corley at St Margaret’s Church, Lee, south east London in 1907, their marriage recorded in the March quarter of that year for the Lewisham district. William would have been around 22 years old, his bride, born in 1888, would have been around 19.

On 8th December 1907 their first child, Edward Charles Butters was born. On 29th January 1909 a daughter, Emily Doris Butters, followed. George Butters was born in December 1909, followed by John Nicholas Butters on the 10th December 1911. Then, on 27th September 1912, at around the same time that their third child died, twin sons James Leslie Butters and Henry James Butters were born.

On 6th June 1913, William joined the 20th London Regiment (TF) for a period of four years and served with B Company. On 17th November that year, his seventh child, Florence May Butters, was born.

There were also one more son and two more daughters that I had not noted in my original Chailey write-up: William John Butters (born 24th December 1916, died 1985), Jessie K Butters (whose birth was registered at Lewisham in the March quarter of 1917) and Clara A Butters (whose birth was registered at Lewisham in the March quarter of 1919).

The photo at the top of this post shows an undated, but presumably pre-war photo of William Butters. The one below shows William, believed to be seated far left, when the 20th London Regiment was at Hatfield. This was probably in November 1914 and would be about the same time that William's poor health first became evident. In June 1915, a Medical Board, identifying tuberculosis, would report:

“Originated Nov 1914 at Hatfield. He states that he was quite well Nov 1914, when he developed a cough. The cough became worse and he brought up much purulent sputum. Sleep sweats from March 1915 to April 1915. Lost some weight. Present condition a weak and wasted man. Signs of active tuberculosis in both lungs, particularly the right lung which is affected in its entirety. Sputum contains enormous numbers of tubercle Bacilli.”

William sent the card to his son, Edward ('Ted') at the family home at 1 Brigade Street, Blackheath. On the reverse he wrote:

"Dear Ted, thank mummy for sending butter which I got alright. I haven't seen Mrs Hurd today so could not send any message. No more news. They are taking away our Reds, Ted and giving us another service dress. XXX. Daddy."

Jonathan also sent me a photo of William when he was recuperating at Hickwells in Chailey. Here he is, sitting cross legged, far left.

This is remarkably similar to a photo I have in my collection which was taken by Frances Blencowe:

In Jonathan's photo, Nurse Blencowe is on the back row, far right, looking away to her left. On my photo, the two dogs have wandered off and one of them is being held by the unidentified woman who replaced Frances Blencowe when she took the photo that I have a copy of. The only other soldier I have positively identified in these photos is Charles Sabourin who lost his leg at Mons and who is sitting behind William Butters.

Clara Butters died just four years after her husband and when she died Ted, aged just seventeen, became the head of the family and had to take charge of his eight brothers and sisters who went into care. Ted Butters died some years ago, but his sister Jessie, the second youngest of William and Clara's children, is still alive and well in Australia. My thanks to Jonathan Butters for sending me this fascinating additional information about his family.

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