CWG: Driver William Hagger

Driver William Hagger

William Joseph Hagger was born in the spring of 1885, one of thirteen children to William Henry Hagger and his wife Emily Ann. The family lived on the Isle of Grain in Kent, where William Sr worked as a labourer in the local cement works.

William Jr was evidently keen to travel. On the 1901 census he is listed as a navyman on HMS Lion, a training vessel in Devonport, Plymouth.

His First World War records state that he officially joined the Royal Navy in 1906, travelling to West Africa as an Able Seaman. While there, he contracted a fever, and was invalided out of the service the following year.

William married Esther Elizabeth Reed in May 1909; by the 1911 census, she was living in Northfleet, Kent, working as a cartridge maker for the local arsenal. William himself is not recorded at the same property, and I have been unable to locate him at this point.

He next appears on the enlistment papers for the Royal Engineers. He joined up very early in the war – December 1914 – and after his training, Driver Hagger embarked for the Western Front in August 1915.

While serving, it seems that his previous affliction resurfaced, and William was dogged by colds and coughs. In the autumn of 1916, he was admitted to a field hospital with haemoptysis (coughing up blood), eventually returning to his unit three months later.

Driver Hagger’s health was fair until, in October 1917, his unit was gassed; he was sent back to England and hospitalised in Aldershot, and this time was discharged from the army six months later.

It seems that William did not recover from his illness and passed away on 22nd November 1918. He was 33 years old.

William Joseph Hagger lies at peace in a quiet corner of St Helen’s Churchyard, in Cliffe, North Kent.

William’s gravestone also acts as memorial to two of his brothers, Henry and Leonard.

Henry Alfred Hagger was born two years after William. He was also keen to make a name for himself, emigrating to California, and working as a streetcar conductor in Oakland. Initially declaring himself exempt from draft as he had a wife to support, he subsequently joined the British Columbia Regiment on 31st July 1917.

Henry was attached to the Forestry Depot of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, who were to be shipped to Europe to harvest trees for use on the Western Front. However, at the point of his medical – in September 1917 – he was discharged as unfit for active service due to his asthma.

Henry Hagger died on 13th February 1919, presumably of his lung condition. He is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery in British Columbia.

Leonard Dealimark Hagger was born in 1899. He enlisted as soon as he was able to, just short of his 18th birthday. Joining the York & Lancaster Regiment, he was posted in 1918.

His battalion saw some of the fiercest of the battles in the closing months of the war – Estaires, Messines, Bailleul, Kemmel Ridge, Scherpenberg, Selle, Valenciennes – and it is likely that Leonard was involved in some of these engagements.

Private Hagger was wounded in the closing weeks of the war, and passed away in a hospital in Liege, Belgium on 15th November 1918. He had just turned 19 years of age.

Private Leonard Hagger lies at peace in the Robermont Cemetery in Belgium.

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