Friday 22 December 2017

Second Lieutenant William Frederick Jelley, M.C. died of wounds, Friday 2nd November 1917

Second Lieutenant William Frederick Jelley, M.C.
 6th Bn. Yorkshire Regiment.
Died of Wounds, Friday 2nd November 1917.
Aged 22 Years.

William Frederick Jelley was the only son of Police Sergeant Charles William Jelley and his wife, Temperance. In 1891 Charles, Temperance and their daughter, Mary, aged six, were living in Barrow upon Soar. William Frederick Jelley was born on the 22nd August 1895 in Syston, Leicestershire. Charles and Temperance had two more children, but sadly they didn't survive.

In 1901 the family had moved to 193 Main Street, Thurmaston and in 1909 they had moved again, to Loughborough, and were living in Church Gate.

William attended the Intermediate School in Loughborough and on the 28th September 1909, when he was fourteen, he moved on to the Loughborough Grammar School where he stayed for four years. His school report showed him to be a good scholar, except in French where he "could do better". He joined the Sixth Form in 1911 and the family had moved to 36 Leopold Street, Loughborough. His French was still "very poor" but his results in Mathematics were good. He left the Grammar School on the 30th July 1913 when he was almost eighteen to become a student teacher. He was also one of the founders of the Nanpantan Troop of Boy Scouts, of which he was Scoutmaster.

When William Jelley was nineteen he had completed his first year's teaching at the Church Gate Council School, and then war broke out on the 4th of August 1914. William Jelley enlisted with the 8th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment and on the 29th July 1915, after nearly a year's training at Aldershot, the 8th Leicesters left camp for Folkestone to board the troopship SS Golden Eagle, to take them to Boulogne, France. William Jelley rose through the ranks from Private to Lance Serjeant.

On the 14th July 1916, the 8th Leicesters were to take part in the battle of Bazentin Ridge and it was during this engagement, on the 15th July, that the now Serjeant Jelley received a gunshot wound to his left arm. It took four days from being wounded to arrive back in England, via Base Hospital at Rouen, and then hospital ship back to England. Whilst he was recovering, Serjeant Jelley was put through a training course and early in 1917, he obtained a commission with the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, (Princess of Wales's Own), and returned to the front a few weeks later.

Now an officer, Second Lieutenant Jelley was once again wounded on the 14th August 1917.

The Battalion war diary recorded the day’s events.

On 14th August 1917 at 3.00 am, outposts withdrawn to W bank of STEENBEEK, and
Formed into preparatory to an advance, A’ Coy attacking on the right with 2 half
Platoons and 1 half platoons in support, To occupy the old line of posts, 2 platoons of B’ Coy immediately in rear to occupy a prepared position on the W Bank of STEENBEEK. C’Coy on the left with 2 half platoons and 1 platoon in support to occupy old line of posts. At 4am the barrage came down and the advanced commenced. C’ Coy gained their objective on the left, A’ Coy held up on the right by hostile M.G. fire from dug outs untouched by bombardment. Enemy delivered several small attacks during the day on A’ Coy, which were easily repelled by rifle fire, intense shelling all day by enemy. All night battalion relieved by 5th Dorset Regiment, who took up positions on the W Bank of the STEENBEEK, outposts being withdrawn through them. Casualties: 2nd Lieutenant C.S.M. WELDON and 2nd Lieutenant W. F. JELLEY wounded, other ranks: 20 killed, 63 wounded, 26 missing.

When dark fell stretcher-bearers removed the young officer from the field. Very badly wounded, Second Lieutenant Jelley was taken first to the field dressing station then on  to a casualty clearing station. He was then transported to the No 2 British Red Cross Hospital in Rouen.

On the 22nd August his mother, Mrs. Temperance Jelley, received a telegram from the War Office, which read:

You are permitted to visit 2nd Lt. W. F. Jelley, dangerously ill, gun shot wound head and thigh fracture femur, at No 2 Red Cross Hospital Rouen.

Mr. Jelley received permission from Loughborough Police station for him and his wife to travel from Loughborough to Rouen and he made arrangements to journey  there to see his son.

Upon arriving at the No. 2 Red Cross Hospital in Rouen, Mr. and Mrs. Jelley visited William who was in a critical condition, the gun-shot wound to his head was not life threatening, but the fracture to the femur could cause complications. It was during this time, whilst in hospital, that the news was conveyed on Second Lieutenant Jelley, that he had been awarded the Military Cross for Bravery in the Field on the 14th August.
One of the Royal Princes read his M.C. citation, which was reported in the London Gazette on the 8th January 1918, to him.

Second Lieutenant William Frederick Jelley, attd. York. Regiment.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in handling his platoon.
Although wounded in the head he continued to lead his platoon until he had gained
his objective. Later in the day, he was again wounded, having his thigh broken, but
although in great pain and unable to move, he continued to urge on his men, and by his splendid pluck and fortitude kept up their spirits until after dark, when he was carried from the field.

During the first week of September, having returned back home to Loughborough,

Mrs. Jelley received another Telegram from the War Office, stating their son was still dangerously ill but that his condition was improved. 

The improved condition only lasted two weeks. Mr. Jelley received another telegram on the 20th October 1917 saying that his son was again dangerously ill (severe relapse). Mr. Jelley returned to his son’s bedside at Rouen, his wife stayed at home. While at his son’s side Mr. Jelley gradually saw his son's condition worsen, necessitating an emergency operation, on the 31st October, to have his leg and thigh amputated. Lieutenant Jelley’s condition never improved and he passed away, in his
father’s presence, on the 2nd November 1917, aged just 22 years.

His mother received a telegram from the War Office, which read: "Deeply regret to inform you that 2nd Lt. W. F. Jelley, York. Reg., died of wounds, November second. The Army Council conveys their sympathy."  

William Frederick Jelley's funeral took place the following morning, at St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen. His father was present to witness his son being accorded full military honours. Second Lieutenant William Frederick Jelley was interred in plot B. 4. Grave 14. The epitaph on his headstone reads: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course."

His will, that Lance Serjeant 12151, W. F. Jelley, wrote and signed on the 28th July 1915, left £5 to his father, Charles William Jelley of 124 Leopold Street, Loughborough, and the remaining property to his mother, Temperence Jelley of the same address. On the 24th January she received £125 10s 2d.

As well as the Military Cross, Second Lieutenant Jelley was awarded the 1915 Star, The Victory Medal and the British (Service) Medal.

Second Lieutenant William Frederick Jelley is remembered on the Carillon Tower War Memorial, St Peter's Church Roll of Honour and Loughborough Grammar School's Roll of Honour.

© Karen Ette

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