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William Gilks

William Daniel Gilks was born 1889 in Ladbroke, near Rugby, where his father was a bricklayer.

In 1911 he was a groom in South Wingfield, Derbyshire.  He then became groom to William Fane of Fulbeck Hall.  One day in 1913 he was driving Mrs Fane to Leadenham Station when he saw a horse and cart running towards them.  The footman stopped the horse and William found the body of the waggoner, Charles Greensmith near the road.  Greensmith seems to have fallen off and been run over by the fully-laden cart.

His employer was Colonel of 3rd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment. They were moblised on 5th Aug 1914, the day after Britain declared war. Col Fane took the train to Lincoln Barracks in the morning, returning for dinner and supplies.  He returned to Lincoln that evening taking William Gilks with him to enlist and to be his servant.  

After training with 3rd Battalion at Grimsby William joined 1st Battalion in France in May 1915.  At about this time, probably just before he left, he married Ethel Carter in Grimsby.  By the end of the war she was living in Hyson Green, Nottingham.

In July 1916 the battalion took part in the opening stage of the Battle of the Somme.  On the first day of the campaign (Battle of Albert) they were in support, carrying ammunition forward, but soon found themselves in the front line and by midnight 119 were listed as dead or missing. Two weeks later, in what became known as the Battle of Bazentin they were in support again, carrying ammunition and rations to the front line and bringing back wounded and prisoners.  As the lead units advanced to High Wood, Lincolnshire Regiment men trained as ‘bombers’ were sent forward with grenades to help clear Germans from trenches and dugouts.

The carrying parties were continually shelled, with the enemy using a new type of gas shell (probably a phosgene mix). The action continued for several days and the men all suffered from effects of gas as well as lack of sleep.

Private Gilks was badly gassed during this action and died in a field hospital on 16th July.