top of page
  • Admin

William Melville

21876 Private

‘Y’ Company, 12th Platoon, 17th Battalion (Rosebery) Royal Scots, 106th Infantry Brigade, 35th Division

Age: 26

Date of Death: 30.9.18

Buried: Zantvoorde British Cemetery I.E.12

Family history: Son of Abraham and Agnes Melville, Dark Close, 67 South Street, Bo’ness. He had a younger brother, James. William was married to Margaret and they lived at 35 Foundry Square (the Dairy Close), Grangepans, Bo’ness, and they had a son, William. Prior to enlisting he was employed as a miner by the Bridgeness Coal Company Ltd.

He enlisted in the 17th Battalion (Rosebery), Royal Scots on 15 March 1915. William was five feet in height and joined the Bantam Battalion.

Recruitment - Bantam Battalions

The War Office attempted to assert some form of control over the recruiting process by implementing new height requirements for those enlisting. The limit had previously been 5ft 3in on 8 August and this was raised to 5ft 6in. The age limit was also raised from nineteen to thirty years to a new upper limit of thirty five years. This change resulted in 10,000 men being rejected on arrival at their units and it is clear this had an effect on recruitment. In October the War Office lowered the height limit to 5ft 4in and further extended the age limit to thirty-eight years, and for former soldiers to forty-five years. In November, they dropped the height again this time to 5ft 3in and in July 1915 to 5ft 2in and extended the age limit to forty years. The first Bantam battalions began to appear in November 1914, one of which was the 17th Battalion, Royal Scots which was also one of the seven ’Pals’ Battalions recruited in Scotland.

His service before being Killed in Action

He was wounded, gun shot wound slight graze to the face and neck, on 17 May 1916 however, he rejoined his unit on 21 May. On the 26 January 1917, he was transferred to 176 Tunnelling Company, 3rd Canadian Division, and was with them until June 1917. The 176 Tunnelling Company were involved in creating the Factory Farm Mine, in the Ploegsteert Wood sector. This mine, along with 19 others, was blown at 3.10am on 7 June 1917, in what became known as ‘Cratering the Ridge’, in the opening day of the Battle of Messines. William did not witness this event as he was leave from the 6 to 16 June.

On 16 September 1917, William rejoined the Battalion and took part in Third Ypres. He was wounded on 6 June 1918, suffering from the effects of being gassed, and rejoined the Battalion on 12 August. He then went on leave from 18 August to 1 September.

The action leading to his death

During the night 29/30 September orders were received for an attack by the Brigade on the northern outskirts of Werviq.

The War Diary records the events:

(Linesman Map)

William's wife received a letter from the Battalion Chaplain informing her of her husband's death. The pain and anguish of her loss is evident in the letter she wrote to the Army asking for more information concerning the circumstances of her husband's death:

His wife then wrote, in October 19121, three years after her husband's death, a further letter concerning his death plaque. She received a reply dated 26 May 1922, some seven months after writing, and the reply she received is instructive regarding the number of plaques being issued per week and the backlog:


1915 Star, The British War Medal, Victory Medal


William was buried were he fell on the battlefield and his grave was then exhumed and brought to Zantvoorde British Cemetery for reburial.

His age is shown as 28 however, he was 26 years old when he was killed in action.

(Authors Image)

107 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page