Pte. GS/50396 William John Framingham
11th. Btn. Royal Fusiliers City of London Regiment
1891 - May 3rd. 1917
William John Framingham was born to parents Samuel Framingham and Ann Elizabeth Williamson in January 1891 in Great Ryburgh. He was the 4th of their 6 children, most of whom were born in different locations in Norfolk and Suffolk, from Lowestoft, Burnham Market, Dereham and Ringstead as well as Great Ryburgh.
Samuel was on the Electoral Register for Ryburgh until 1895 and the family probably arrived in the village around 1890. They lived near to the school and Samuel is listed as a Blacksmith in the 1891 Census. Subsequent censuses show him as an agricultural engineer/fitter which leads one to speculate that he was employed at the Farmers' Foundry rather than at the Forge that now houses the local Fish & Chip shop.
William, his sister Florence Lilian and brothers Arthur Henry, and Herbert Ernest attended the village school at the start of Albert Foster's teaching career. The school log book entry for January 17th 1896 says the following:
The school registers do not list any of the Framingham children as the surviving volumes only include retrospectively a very few admissions from 1898.
Of his two other brothers, Charles Edward was born on August 2nd 1898 and baptised at Burnham Westgate on September 25th that year. Charles sadly died in 1913. Samuel's occupation is given here as Iron founder which further supports the idea that he had been employed at the Farmers' Foundry. The youngest, Albart was born in Ringstead circa 1902 according to the 1911 Census.
There is little else known, save that William was living with his family on the Fring Road in Ringstead in 1911 and working as a farm labourer. He enlisted in Kings Lynn at a date unknown and had been with the 26th Btn ( The Bankers Btn.) Royal Fusiliers City of London Regiment for just 2 weeks prior to joining the 11th Service Btn. on October 13th 1916.
Examination of the 11th Btn. Royal Fusiliers War Diary allows us a glimpse into the final hours of his life and probably tells us more than his family ever knew about the events which lead to his death. It reads as follows:
NEUVILLE VITASSE May 1/2nd 8 p.m. & onward:
The battalion was relieved by the BEDFORD and MIDDLESEX Regts. and proceed to bivouac at NEUVILLE VITASSE (same map ref'ce as above)
2nd. Day open'd in explaining to the Battalion details etc. of the attack planned for the early morning of May 3rd/ 1917.
In the Trenches 1917 May 2/3 9 p.m. onward.
The Battalion proceeded to the trenches preparatory to taking up the battle position. The journey up was uneventful except that in the valleys Gas (from german Gas Shells) was met which necessitated the wearing of the Bat respirator for a short distance. Major A.C. Sulivan M.C. acted as liason officer between Bde. And 11th R.F.
May 3rd. AM 3.45
Disposition of the Battalion :-(Map refs)
In Dug out (Map ref)
A. Coy = carrying party detailed to R.E. for moving forward Brigade dump under the orders of the 54th Brigade Bombing Officer.
B. Coy = This company was attached to and under the command of O.C. 12 Middlesex Regt. To be used by him as Dug out clearing parties.
C. Coy was distributed in trenches at about (Map ref) and other available trenches close to. But in front of these.
D.Coy (less two platoons) distributed as “C” Coy. The two platoons of D Coy ( Nos 13 7 15) were attached to and under the command of the O.C. 7th Bedford Regt. To be used for him as Dug out clearing parties.
The 7th Bedfordshire Regt occupied the right sector of the Brigade front (Map ref) the 12th Middlesex occupied the left sector (Map ref) The 11th R.F. ( less B Coy and the two platoons of D Coy and A Coy) was in support to the Bedford & Middlesex Regts. The 6th Northants being in reserve. C Coy being on the left and D Coy on the right
In the Trenches 1917 May 3 3.45 a.m.
The object being to capture the village of CHERISY(Map ref) see map above and establish itself on the spur to the East of that village. There follows a series of map references describing various objectives to be captured and identified as different coloured lines viz. brown, blue, red & green. We have been kindly sent two very relevant maps of the battle area by freelance military historian Jeremy Banning. These are his copyright and are reproduced by his kind permission. The map shown below illustrates precisely what is described in the war diary.
The diary continues:
The role of the 11th Royal Fusiliers :- Two Coys to move forward and occupy original british front line as soon as the blue line has been captured by the two assaulting battalions. The whole battalion ( less the carrying company A) will eventually concentrate approximately on the line of the railway which runs North and South through (Map ref). It will hold itself in readiness to support the assaulting battalions if required, The 11th. RF will detail Provost Sergeant and two regimental police to be on duty at the Brigade Collecting Post (for Prisoners) at (Map ref).Their duty is to form prisoners into batches of 20 and forward them under escort to Advanced Divisional Cage at (Map ref).
At 3.45 AM (it was dark and a mist hung over the ground.) which was zero hour, the barrage opened and the assaulting troops moved froward. Owing to the darkness direction was lost the Bedfords swinging
In the Trenches 1917 May 3 A M 3.45 to 12 midnight
to the right and the Middlesex to the left. The two platoons of D Coy followed the Bedfords and, when they were held up by machine guns and snipers, took refuge in shell holes where they lay the whole day and returned to Battn Hdqrs when it was dark at night. B Coy followed the Middlesex and parties of these were reported as being seen on the East side of CHERISY. Parties of B Coy also returned after dark to the Bn Hd Qrs. The attack of the 54th Brigade was held up chiefly owing to FONTAINE TRENCH (Map ref) not being taken. At 9.A.M. Lt Col Carr D.S.O. (who had been placed in command of the 11th R.F. The 12th Middlesex and the 6th Northants) decided to send forward C Coy of the R.F. to make an attack in open formation on FONTAINE TRENCH. The Coy advanced but was held up by heavy machine gun fire after proceeding about 200 yards and forced to retire after losing several men. A general retirement along the whole line took place about 10A.M. but this was checked and the original British front line reoccupied by our troops. As there was a great number of our troops lying out between our original front line and the enemy trenches it was decided to make an attack at 6.15 P.M. on FONTAINE TRENCH so that the men lying out might be relieved. The 6th Northants were detailed to carry out this operation and they relieved C & D Coy (less 2 platoons) of the 11th R.F. These two Coys formed strongpoints (Map ref) on the right of the 6th Northants. During the day A Coy were used to carry Ammunition & water to Battn. Hdqrs. During the night 3 / 4 May 1917 several parties of our B & D Coys returned to Battn. Hdqrs.
4th (May). 6 to 10p.m.
Held same positions as yesterday – situation quiet with intermittent shelling. 11th.R.F. evacuated their positions under Brigade orders and returned to their old quarters at NEUVILLE VITASSE
The total casualties during the last three days ( May 2. 3rd - 4th) were
Killed Officers: 2 other ranks 10
Missing “ 3 “ 32
Wounded “ 2 “ 74
(B Coy lost all their officers who took part in the attack)
27 year old William Framingham was one of those 42 men above who were killed or missing “death presumed”. His father received his back pay of £5-8/- and a further £3 War Gratuity. As his body was never knowingly recovered for burial, he was commemorated in Bay No. 3, Course “C” and Stone No.5 of the Arras Memorial.
Photographs of Neuville Vitasse in June 1917 can be seen by clicking HERE