On 31 July 1915, William Henry Ford was killed by a bursting shell whilst firing at the enemy. This was during the Battle of Hooge, which saw the Germans attack and reclaim their position around the village of Hooge, near to Ypres in Belgium. It was one of the first major instances where the flamethrower was deployed by the Germans. This was one of the most feared weapons introduced in the First World War. It was used to such devastating effect that once the Germans were defeated, the Allies included it on a list of weapons the German army were forbidden to use as a part of the Treaty of Versailles.
Ford had been a member of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. In a letter written to his father afterwards, his platoon sergeant explained how fearless he had been when under terrible artillery fire and how he had lived a cheerful life, even in the midst of war.
Ford was only 17 years of age when he died. He had been an employee of the Co-operative Wholesale Society in their London branch. He was a popular young man amongst the men of his regiment, and was described as a true, loyal comrade.
Co-operative News, 4 September 1915, page 1177.
http://www.firstworldwar.com/weaponry/flamethrowers.htm [Accessed 11 April 2015].
WWI co-operative voices
This post is part of ‘WWI co-operative voices’ which shares the stories of co-operative workers and members during the conflict. In order to mark the centenary of the WWI, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum is staging an exhibition entitled ‘From shop floor to front line’ and the accounts of these soldiers, shop workers and conscientious objectors will run alongside it. They are tales of death, duty and of those who chose not to fight.
Through ‘WWI co-operative voices’ we will be releasing new posts about these individuals throughout the duration of the exhibition (due to open mid-May 2015 and run until May 2016). Read about the co-operative movement’s involvement in a war that shook the world by selecting a name from the column on the left. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates.
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We wish to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting the ‘From shop floor to front line’ exhibition and project.