William Charles Small was born towards the end of 1896 in the Somerset town of Midsomer Norton. He was one of six children to coal hewer William George Small and his wife Margaret.
When he left school, William worked for the Co-op store in nearby Radstock, but when war came, he was keen to play his part. His service records are lost to time, but the local newspaper’s report on his funeral in 1919 sheds light on Private Small’s army career:
…he joined the army in May 1915, then being only 18 years of age. He joined the North Somerset Yeomanry and went to France on active service in September the same year, being sent straight to Belgium. There being a shortage of machine gunners, he was transferred to the [Machine Gun Corps], in the 3rd Cavalry Division.
He fought at Peronne, at Cambrai, Arras and Verdun, and other places. His regiment were commended by its General for their bravery in holding back the Germans. He first had leave after one year and eight months’ service in France, and another in August 1918.
He was in the Third Army which stemmed the German attack when they attempted to break through, and fought night and day till they succeeded in holding the enemy back. He had many narrow escapes while in battle, but came through without a scratch.
He was demobilised in January 1919, and was discharged A1, but the strain of 3 years and 6 months of active service proved too much and his health entirely broke down, and he was not able to follow his employment at all. His case was taken up by the military two months ago, and he was sent to Bath War Hospital, where he never recovered from the sever strain…Somerset Guardian and Radstock Observer: Friday 7th November 1919
Private William Small died in the hospital on 25th October 1919, at the age of just 22 years of age. His body was brought back to Midsomer Norton for burial and he was laid to rest in the family plot there.