Corporal. 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. Service Number 12123.
William Nelmes was born in Bolsover in 1887 and his birth was registered in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, in the second quarter of the year. His parents were George W., and Elizabeth Nelmes. In the 1891 census, William was three and had an older brother George aged 8, a sister Gertrude aged 6 and a younger brother Thomas aged just 2 months. They were all living with their parents at 32, Cliffe View, Denaby in Doncaster. Their father George was a coal miner and sadly, two years later he had died aged 32. Elizabeth later remarried, to Charles Wild, a fitter and iron turner making machinery and they were recorded in the 1901 census at 6, Water Street, Keighley.
By this time, William was 13 years old and employed as a bobbin setter at a worsted mill.
Things had changed quite a bit for William by 1911, he was living (with his younger sister Clara) in the home of their elder sister Gertrude and her husband Charles Matthew Athorn and young family at 50, Dalton Lane in Keighley and William was by now carrying out a skilled job as a washing machine fitter for a machine works.
This was just a few doors away from the house where Ivor Tempest Greenwood would later be living at 56, Dalton Lane.
William had moved to 36, Henry Street and was a 25 year old moulder when he married 27 year old Hilda Simpson of 83, Spencer Street at St. Andrew's parish church in Keighley on 24th March 1913.
William probably enlisted at Keighley Drill Hall on Lawkholme Lane with the Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment on Monday 31st August, along with the other members of his bible group.
He would have been sent to Belton Park Army Camp at Grantham for training and on the 18th January 1915 the battalion was transferred to 32nd Brigade, 11th Northern Division. The battalion moved to Witley in April 1915. At some point William was promoted to Corporal, probably after spending a while as a Lance Corporal. The 8th battalion sailed on SS Aquitania from Liverpool on 3rd July 1915. They were narrowly missed by a U-Boat torpedo the next day and they passed into the Mediterranean Sea on 6th July when another alarm sounded as another U-boat had been spotted. The remainder of their voyage was uneventful and they arrived at Lemnos on the 10th of July. They spent the next ten (uneventful) days bivouaced then embarked for Imbros on the 22nd July, arriving the next day. The battalion was inspected by their commander in chief on 24th July and they spent the next few days in bivouacs whilst the Lt. Colonel and the Major went off (separately) to inspect the trenches.
The battalion received orders on 5th August to proceeed to the Gallipoli Peninsula, arriving there on the 6th and began disembarking, landing unhindered at Suvla Bay on 7 August 1915. The battalion was heavily engaged by the enemy at night and during the day, resulting in heavy losses. William was killed in action on the 7th of August 1915, shortly after the landings took place. Nothing more is known about his death and his grave was not recorded. William's name is one of 20,958 recorded on the Helles Memorial.
Keighley News 11th September 1915 page 5:
A FALLEN SOLDIER'S CHEERY LETTERS.
One of the band of young men of All Saints' Church (Keighley) Bible Class, who enlisted along with Sergeant Robinson, was Corporal W.Nelmes, of the 8th West Riding Regiment, whose death in action at the Dardanelles, has been reported to Mrs. Nelmes, who resides at 86, Spencer Street, Keighley.
He was gymnastic instructor to the All Saints' and St Barnabas's athletic clubs prior to his enlistment, and was a young man held in high esteem. Reference to his death was made last Sunday evening at All Saints' Church by the Rev. J. Wood.
Writing from the Dardanelles on July 27, Corporal Nelmes said: "I am in the pink of condition, but I wish it was over altogether; but we shall have to hope and put our trust in God., and he will help us to do our duty in an honest and upright way. I don't care what hardships I have to face as long as I come back safe and sound. I can tell you this, that it will make a big difference to a lot of young fellows up here who did not study what home was. We are in the best of spirits and not downhearted at all.
We have a lot of Ghurkas up here with their terrible knives fighting for us, and they are a fine lot of lads, and no mistake. Talk about drilling, they beat us into fits, and that is saying a lot. It won't last long up here, I can tell you. The Turks are a poor lot, and if it was not for the German officers they would throw it up. We have a few prisoners here, and they have hardly a rag to their back or a boot to their feet, and are glad to be prisoners.
Joe Wright is up here, and the other lads from All Saints'. In his postscript he said, "I do not think it will be long before I am home again."
Writing home to his wife on August 4, he said, "You must let me know how you like in the shell factory. You are just as much a soldier as I am - you helping to make the shot while we help to fire it. I shall be back in the firing line by the time you get this letter, but, never mind, God will take care of me and bring me, I hope, back to you."
In his last letter he wrote,: "I don't think it will be long up here - we hope not, anyway - but we have a stiff job on, and I think there will be some lives lost, but I hope I think wrong, as I would like to see all these lads come safely back. We shall have to trust and wait and see what will be done, when it is all over, which I pray to God won't be long, so that we can have peace on this earth once again. Then there will be some smiling faces in dear old England, and not half... We all have our little bit to do, and we must do it in a just and straightforward way, for it is a just cause, and we shall win in the end, and I hope to live to see it end, and then we can come back to our homes and work. We are in the best of spirits yet."
The Keighley News Saturday September 18, 1915:
SERVICE IN MEMORY OF KEIGHLEY SOLDIERS.
A large congregation assembled at All Saint's Church, Keighley on Sunday morning last, when the service took the form of a commemoration of Sergeant J. E. Robinson and Corporal W. Nelmes who were killed in action at the Dardanelles during the recent severe fighting. The pulpit and lectern were draped in black, and the choir wore crepe badges in memory of Sergeant Robinson, who had been a member of the choir from boyhood. Representatives of the Parish Church Athletic Club attended the service to show their respect for Corporal Nelmes who was formerly instructor to the All Saint's Gymnasium. A large body of Girl Guides also attended under the care of Mrs. Green. The preacher was the Rev. J. Wood, who in the course of a sermon on "The Palmist's prayer for a complete life," from the text, "O, my God, take me not away in the midst of my years," showed that a complete life consisted not in length of years, but in quality of service. At the evening service the choir, under the leadership of Mr. J. Robinson, rendered the anthem "Blest are the departed."
After his death:
His wife Hilda received his remaining back pay of £1 4s. 4d on 29th January 1916. She also received a widow's pension of 10 shillings and 6d per week.
She remarried on 4th May 1918, to Charlie Mason and received a remarriage gratuity of £30 11s. 4d which we assume is a final payment of her widows pension entitlement which probably came to an end when she remarried. She later received a war gratuity payment of £4 on 7th January 1920.
As William's next of kin, Hilda probably also received William's medals in early 1920/21 as he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service. She would likely have received a King's scroll and a war memorial plaque with William's name on them, around the same time.
William is remembered on the Helles memorial in Gallipoli.
Locally he is remembered in the Keighley Borough roll of honour in Keighley Library and on the All Saint's Church war memorial on Highfield Lane.
England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915
1891 England Census
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
West Yorkshire, England, Marriages and Banns, 1813-1935
England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index, 1837-1915:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919:
Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
WWI Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
Photographs supplied by kind permission of Jennie Trowbridge.