Private William Holland Bracewell

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Private William Holland Bracewell
Assistant in medical stores, dispenser and stretcher bearer.

Private William Holland Bracewell in RAMC uniform.

Early life:
William Holland Bracewell was born in Keighley on 3rd March 1883 and baptised on 4th July that year at St. Peter's Church. His parents were Joseph, a plasterer and Mary Emily Bracewell nee Lamb, both of Keighley.

William had an older sister, Elizabeth Hannah (born in 1880) and two younger brothers, Walter (born in 1887) and Percy (born in 1889).

At the time of the 1891 census the family lived at 49 Park Lane in Keighley. Joseph and Mary were both 34 years old, Joseph working as a plasterer. Elizabeth was with her paternal grandparents, the three boys at home.

William Holland Bracewell's baptism record

By 1901 the family had moved to 31 Bow Street. Elizabeth was working as a worsted twister, William a joiner, and Walter was a butcher's apprentice. The family had a boarder, 23 year old Sarah Kershaw from Halifax, who was a worsted reeler.

The Bracewell family on the 1901 census

On 21st June 1910 William married Beatrice Haigh, a 24 year old factory operator of 27 Arctic Street at the Parish Church in Keighley. William's address at this time was 28 Cartmel Road.

William and Beatrice's marriage

William and Beatrice lived for a period of time with Beatrice's family at Arctic Street, including the time of the 1911 census. The household consisted of George (a gardener) and Rebecca Haigh, their 24 year old daughter Edith (a piece mender) as well as William and Beatrice. William's occupation was a wringing machine joiner, and Beatrice was a rover in the worsted trade.

War service:
Some time later, William and Beatrice moved to 10 Alfred Street in Worth Village. This was his address on his VAD card. This shows that he worked from 4th November 1914 until 28th January 1919. He was a Private with the Royal Army Medical Corps. During this time he served at No. 3 General Hospital in Rouen, France. There were several war hospitals in the city as it became a significant logistics centre, its position considered to be safely behind lines.

On the back, William wrote "This is the first I have seen of this kind, so I thought I would get it."

In addition to No. 3 General Hospital, his VAD card also indicates he spent time with the 2nd/3rd Home Counties Field Ambulance. This division proceeded to France in December 1914 and were involved in action at St. Elois and the Second Battle of Ypres before being moved to Salonika.

I have not been able to locate service records, so have not been able to establish when William was undertaking each role, however his VAD card shows that he worked from 4th November 1914 until 28th January 1919. His medal cards show that, for his service, William was awarded the British War Medal, Victory Medal and the 1914 Star Medal.

William's medal card

William's role was described as 'Assistant in medical stores, dispenser and stretcher bearer'. Each battalion was assigned a medical officer and at least 16 stretcher bearers, who were usually the first to reach a wounded soldier and administer what first aid they could. There are many accounts of stretcher bearers tasked with going to the front lines to collect the wounded and dead, often under fire and exposed to gas poisoning, and the casualty rate for stretcher bearers was high. In all, the RAMC lost at least 6,873 personnel, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission are still adding names to their roll of honour to this day. This coupled with RAMC men performing their duties unarmed, must have been a terrifying experience.

Later life:
Upon returning home, William appears to have returned to work as a joiner. He and Beatrice had a daughter, Hilda, born in April 1920.

In 1939 they lived at 3 Alfred Street. William was described as a joiner in a gas works (heavy work) and Beatrice was still working in the worsted trade as a rover. Hilda was a silk weaver.

The 1939 Register

Beatrice died in Keighley in 1951, William and Hilda were still at 3 Alfred Street in 1957. William died in 1969, also in Keighley.

I don't believe Hilda ever married, and died in 2004, her death registered in North Yorkshire.

England and Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1935
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1813-1935
UK, WW1 Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
UK, British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards,1914-1920
1939 England and Wales Register
West Yorkshire, England, Electoral Registers, 1840-1962
England and Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007
The Royal Army Medical Corps And Its Work | The Great War | Medical Front WWI (
RAMC - The Royal Army Medical Corps in WW1 (

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