CWG: Lieutenant William Cole

Shaftesbury

William Thomas Cole was born in the spring of 1897, the youngest of three children to John and Caroline Cole. John was a bank cashier from Gillingham in Dorset, while Caroline was born in Battersea, London. By the time of William’s birth, however, the young family had settled in the Dorset town of Blandford.

John was a man with ambitions for himself and his family. The 1911 census records him and Caroline living in Axbridge in Somerset, where he was now a bank manager. William, meanwhile, was a student in Wareham, Dorset, and was lodging at a boarding house in the town.

There is little documented about William’s military service. His gravestone confirms that he had originally enlisted in the Dorsetshire Regiment, but had subsequently joined the Royal Air Force, when it was formed in April 1918. By the time of his death, he had reached the rank of Lieutenant, so it would seem that his John’s ambitious nature had rubbed off on his only son.

William’s death was reported in a number of contemporary newspapers:

Lieutenant WT Cole and First Air Mechanic H Keates were killed while flying in South Essex last night. They were both in the same machine, which nose-dived and crashed into the ground. Cole’s home is at Shaftesbury, Dorset, and Keates’ at West Wood Grove, Leek, Staffordshire.

Dundee Evening Telegraph: Thursday 24th October 1918

Lieutenant Cole was flying in Hornchurch, Essex, and was in an Avro 504K bi-plane. He was just 21 years old when he died on 23rd October 1918. There is little further information about the accident, but highlighting the real danger in aviation at the time, this was one of eight fatal plane crashes across the UK that day alone.

The body of William Thomas Cole was brought back to Shaftesbury, where his parents were by then living. He was laid to rest in the Holy Trinity Churchyard in the town.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s