William James Pothecary was born in Frome, Somerset, on 24th April 1891, one of six children – and the only boy – to Francis and Annie Maria Pothecary. Francis was a groom, and the couple raised the family in Pilly Vale (now Willow Vale) which ran alongside the River Frome in the centre of the town (and which was prone to flooding, as the contemporary photo below shows).
Little further information on William’s early life is available, although it seems he was a keen musician, and took up the oboe at an early age. He joined the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders in 1909 as a Bandsman, and, from later reports, was a talented player.
When was broke out, William was sent to the front, but in 1915, while caught up in the Second Battle of Ypres, he was buried and seriously wounded by a bomb. He was sent to a convalescent came in Ireland, recovered reasonably well and returned to the France, where he served until the end of the war.
Bandsman Pothecary was demobbed in July 1919 and returned to Somerset. The following year, he needed an operation following the recurrence of the issues he encountered following his injury, and all seemed to be going well for a long-term recovery.
William had a relapse in the summer of 1921, and was admitted to Bath Hospital. Sadly, however, he was not to recover this time, and he passed away on 20th June. He had just turned 30 years old.
William James Pothecary was laid to rest in the graveyard of Christ Church in his home town of Frome.
The Somerset Standard gave a glowing obituary for young William:
Death of an “Old Contemptible”
The was, through the fighting is over, still claims victims from the ranks of survivors. On Monday, Mr William James Pothecary, one of the “Old Contemptibles”, died in the Pensions Hospital at Bath from the effects of wounds which he received in 1915. He was the only son of Mr and Mrs FW Pothecary, of Bath Street, and very deep sympathy is felt with the parents and sisters in their great bereavement. Mt WJ Pothecary was an old Regular.
Nearly twelve years ago he joined the 2nd Seaforths. He was a talented player of the oboe, and it was his love of music which prompted him to become a bandsman in the 2nd Seaforths. He had previously been a bugle boy in the old Volunteers, and afterwards a member of the Territorial Band. And at the time of his death he was one of the most valued players in the Frome Town Military Band.
He went to France with his regiment in 1914. In 1915 he was seriously wounded and buried by a bomb. His condition was critical for a long time, but he slowly recovered and was sent to a convalescent camp in Ireland. He remained there for a considerable time, and when he was deemed medically fit he was sent to France a second time. He continued to serve in France until after the Armistice. He was discharged from the Army in July 1919.
Last year it was necessary for him to undergo a very serious operation in hospital. The operation was successful, and it was hoped there would be a permanent recovery. But on Thursday last there was a recurrence of an old trouble, and he was removed to Bath Hospital, where he died on Monday morning.
He was a talented and promising young fellow, and his death is deeply deplored by his many friends, and not least by his fellow members of the Frome Town Military Band.Somerset Standard: Friday 24th June 1921