2nd Lt. W. Swain



UNIT: 8th Yorkshire Regiment

STATUS: Killed in Action

DATE OF DEATH: 22nd September 1916

CEMETERY OR MEMORIAL: Becourt Military Cemetery, Becordel-Becourt, France

AGE: 23

William Swain was born at Scruton on 15th March 1894 and he was the elder brother of Thomas Swain. The family lived at Sheepcote Farm, just outside Northallerton, on the Darlington Road.

He was educated at West House School and after leaving school became apprenticed to Messrs. Oxendale and Barker, a drapery business which was to grow into the present Barkers Department Store. He then moved to Manchester to work for Messrs. Affleck & Brown for a while, before returning to Northallerton, just before the outbreak of War, to work as a clerk in the Wensleydale Pure Milk Society, of which his father was a Director.

He joined the Durham University OTC on 20th August 1915 and he applied for a commission on 27th November 1915. In his application he asked to be sent to the 4th Yorkshire Battalion but he was sent to the 14th Battalion and subsequently posted to the 8th Battalion in France.

On his final leave he was able to visit his younger brother Thomas in hospital in London, before returning to the Battle of the Somme to meet his own fate a few weeks later.

The 8th Yorkshires went into the front line on the 18th/19th September. The line was that which had been captured on 15th September, on which occasion Tanks had been used for the very first time. The battalion occupied a line of trenches which ran from the junction of Starfish Trench and Prue Trench, around the northern edge of the village of Martinpuich and continued towards the village of Courcellette, stopping just short of the main Albert to Bapaume road and about 350 yards South East of Courcellette.

Such was the confusion after the 15th September attack that in this area the exact positions of the British and German troops was still not known with any certainty. A further advance had been planned but had been postponed partly because of this uncertainty, but mainly because of the heavy rain which had been falling. As a result emphasis was placed on improving the existing position by means of small offensive patrols and maintaining contact with the 50th Division on the right and the Canadians in Courcellette on the left. The 8th Yorkshires were relieved during the afternoon of 22nd, the same day on which William Swain was killed, aged 23.

William is buried in Becourt Military Cemetery which is situated at the side of Becourt Wood. There was a Dressing Station at Becourt Chateau which was in Becourt Wood but as 2nd Lt. Swain is listed as killed in action and not died of wounds it is likely that he was killed in the trenches, either by artillery or sniper fire. His body was probably carried to the cemetery at Becourt after the Battalion had been withdrawn from the trenches, to the nearby Scots Redoubt.