Friday, June 22, 2012

Gunner William Keam 4839

There were two results for William Keam in the CWGC database.  Cross referencing them with UK Soldiers Died in the Great War showed that one was from Widnes and the other was born in and lived in St Austell. I assume that the soldier from Widnes is more likely to be our man. The only problem I have with this is that I cannot find anything to link him to St James' Church. It is possible of course that in between the 1911 census and his death in 1916 he moved into the area.

Gunner William Kean 4839 R.F.A.


William Keam was born in Widnes in 1889. His parents were Elizabeth and Richard Keam, a general labourer.

Their return for the 1891 census shows they lived at 4 Cholmondeley Street, Widnes. Interestingly, Richard Keam was from St Austell, so the other William Keam on the CWGC may have been a relative.

source: 1891 census Ancestry.co.uk


The 1901 census return shows that Elizabeth was a widow. The family (Elizabeth and 5 children) were still living at 4 Cholmondeley St, now with 2 boarders. They were enumerated incorrectly as Keen.

source: ancestry.co.uk 1901 census


Elizabeth remarried to James Herbert in 1905 (Free BMD marriage index april-June 1905 lancashire Prescot, vol 8b p1156)

At the time of the 1911 census the family are somewhat split up. Elizabeth and her new husband were living at 28 Cholmondeley St, Widnes. William Keam (working as a chemical labourer) and his brother Herbert Keam are with them, as are 4 more children, apparently 3 from this marriage and one from James Herbert's previous marriage.
However, when looking for Elizabeth's other 3 children I found that Elizabeth Keam was working as a servant and Harriet and Thomas Henry Keam were both inmates at West Derby Union Cottage Homes, Fazakerly. The cottage homes were for children who were orphaned, or whose families couldn't cope with them for some reason. Stays there could be temporary eg while a mum was in hospital having a baby, or they could be permanent - until they were old enough to find work and a place to live or had to move to another institute for older children.

click here to go to the wikipedia page about the chemical industry in widnes -
WW1 Medal card source: ancestry.co.uk

William's medal card shows that his medals were inscribed wrongly (KEAN) and were returned to be fixed.

None of William's service papers have survived, we know from the information on his medal card, CWGC entry and UK Soldiers Died in the Great War entry that William was a Gunner in 'D' Bty, 147th Bde of the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery with regimental number 4839.
He died of wounds in the 'Western European Theatre' France and Flanders on  23rd October 1916 and is buried at HEILLY STATION CEMETERY, MERICOURT-L'ABBE which is in the Somme area of France.
At the time William died, this cemetery was used by 3 Casualty Clearing Stations so it is likely that he was recovered from where he was wounded but died of his wounds while still in a clearing station and didn't make it to a hospital.

click here to see the CWGC database entry for William (opens in new window)

The following information is from UK Soldiers who Died in the Great War

Name: William Keam
Birth Place: Widnes, Lancs
Death Date: 23 Oct 1916
Death Location: France & Flanders
Enlistment Location: Preston, Lancs
Rank: Gunner
Regiment: Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery
Number: 4839
Type of Casualty: Died of wounds
Theatre of War: Western European Theatre


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Not strictly about William Keam  - his brother Herbert enlisted on 3rd Sept 1914, he was in B Coy 12th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. His papers have survived and show that he was promoted to Corporal. On 12th Dec 1917 Herbert was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty in the field (gazetted 19/3/18 p3465)He was then attached to the 66th Infantry Brigade Headquarters but on 7th February1918 had a bicycle accident which left him with serious head injuries, a court of enquiry found that the injuries were accidental, Herbert was on duty at the time and in no way to blame. His injuries were deemed serious but not likely to affect his performance as a soldier.
Herbert was demobilised on 28th March 1919

2 comments:

Rod Gibson said...
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Amanda said...

Hi Amanda - very much admiring your project. Can't shed light for you on how William Keam came to be associated with St James but I can provide details on where he served during WW1. My grandfather also served in 147 Brigade of the RFA (and also died of his wounds only some 13 days after William). I have downloaded, transcribed and summarised the war diary of the 147th (March-December 1916 - the earlier section which covers their tour to Gallipolli is not yet digitised). If you want the information why not email me. Regards - Rod Gibson