William John Neads was born on 16th December 1892, the middle of three children to cab driver and groom William Neads and his wife Ellen. Both William Sr and Ellen were from Somerset, although William Jr and his brother Charles – who was eleven months older – were both born in the Monmouthshire village of Cwmcarn.
William’s parents soon moved the family back to Clevedon in Somerset, and, when he left school, he found work as a farm labourer. He was eager to see more of the world, however and, in April 1913, he emigrated to Canada.
After working as a labourer there for a year or so, back in Europe war was declared. Keen to do his bit for King and Country, William enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the Canadian Infantry in January 1915. He soon found himself caught up on the Front Line.
In October 1916, he was involved in the Battle of the Somme – either at Le Transloy or The Battle of the Ancre Heights – and received a shrapnel wound to his left shoulder. Initially admitted to the Canadian General Hospital in Etaples, he was subsequently evacuated to England and the Northern General Hospital in Leeds. He spent three months recovering from his injuries, and was back on the Western Front in January 1917.
Later that year, William – now a Lance Corporal – was involved in the fighting at the Second Battle of Passchendaele (part of the Third Battle of Ypres). He was wounded again, this time receiving a rather unceremonious gunshot wound to the right buttock. Treated at the scene, he was evacuated back to England and admitted to the Fusehill War Hospital in Carlisle on 17th November.
Sadly, despite treatment, Lance Corporal Neads’ health deteriorated, and he passed away from his injuries on 16th December 1917, his 25th birthday.
William John Neads was brought back to his family’s home of Clevedon, and buried in the clifftop churchyard of St Andrew’s, overlooking the sea.
Tragically, William’s father had died in May 1917, at the age of 51. While no details of his passing are recorded, it meant that Ellen had, in just over a year, seen her son wounded, her husband die and her son wounded again and die as a result.