William John Withers was born in the spring of 1883, in the Somerset town of Midsomer Norton. He was one of six children to William and Rose Withers. William Sr was a coal miner who went on to become a night bailiff, or caretaker, for the colliery. His son, however, sought different things, and, when he left school, he found work as a grocer’s assistant.
In the summer of 1909, William Jr married Florence Robbins, a miner’s daughter from Radstock. The couple went on to have son, Allan, in June 1913 but tragically it appears than Florence either died in childbirth, or shortly afterwards.
In the summer of 1914, war came to Europe; by the end of the following year, William enlisted, joining the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner. His service records show that he stood 5ft 8.5ins (1.74m) tall, and weighted 147lbs (66.7kg). By this time he was working as a shop manager and, as a widower with a young son, it seems that, while he volunteered for service, he wasn’t formally mobilised for another year.
Gunner Withers was initially posted at the Citadel Fortress in Plymouth, but soon moved to Halton Park in Buckinghamshire. He spent time there training to be a Signaller, and in April 1918, he succeeded. That summer, he was posted overseas, serving as part of the 461st Siege Battery in France.
In March 1919, Signaller Withers returned to England. Details are a bit sketchy, but it seems that he was posted to Lincolnshire, and while there he fell ill. He was admitted to the Northern General Hospital in Lincoln with peritoneal adhesions; sadly these proved too much for his body to take; he passed away on 9th April 1919, at the age of 36 years old.
William John Withers’ body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He lies at rest in the graveyard of St Nicholas’ Church in Radstock.
The exact spot of William’s burial is unknown. The grave in the image is of his father, who passed away in 1921. It is likely that William Sr was buried with his son.