CWG: Private William Cottrell

Private William Cottrell

William Cottrell was born in April 1885, the third of twelve children to Henry and Annie Cottrell from Bampton, Devon. When William left school, he became an assistant to the village baker, but new opportunities lay ahead.

In May 1907, William married Maria Wall, the daughter of a stonemason from Wedmore in Somerset. With weeks, the young couple had embarked for a new life, boarding the Empress of Britain in Liverpool, setting sail for Canada.

Emigrating to Manitoba, William became a labourer, and he and Maria had three children – Leslie, Ronald and Kathleen.

War came, and William enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in August 1915. Shipped to England in the spring of the following year, Annie followed suit, returning to Somerset with the three children.

Private Cottrell was assigned to the 44th Battalion Canadian Infantry, setting off for France in August 1916, just weeks before his fourth child – Ruby – was born.

The battalion was involved in some of the fiercest fighting of the war, and it was during the Somme Offensive that William was shot in the left arm. Initially treated in the field, he was soon shipped back to England to recover in a military hospital in Epsom. Discharged after three months, he was returned to his battalion in early 1917.

The fierce fighting continued, and Private Cottrell was wounded again in October 1918. Further treatment back in the UK was needed, and he was admitted to the 1st Eastern General Hospital in Cambridge.

Details of the William’s injuries at the Somme are readily available, but information on his second lot of injuries is scarcer. They must have been pretty severe, however, as he was not discharged. He lost his final battle after four months, succumbing to his wounds on 9th January 1919. He was 33 years old.

William Cottrell lies at rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in his widow’s home village of Wedmore, Somerset.


William’s gravestone is also a memorial to his eldest son, Leslie, who was killed during the Second World War.

Details of his military service are sketchy, but he enlisted in the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment. His battalion – the 1st – was involved in the fighting in Italy, and it was here that he lost his life. He was killed on 8th February 1944 and is buried in the Sangro River War Cemetery, in Abruzzo.


2 thoughts on “CWG: Private William Cottrell”

  1. A detailed biography and photograph of William Cottrell appear in Tim Moreman The Isle of Wedmore Remembers the First World War 1914-19 (Wedmore, 2018). It clarifies a lot of the above.

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