William Albert Westmacott

Air Mech 2nd Class William Albert Westmacott, died 9th March 1919

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William Albert Westmacott was born between July and September 1894 in South Cerney. He was christened and registered as Albert William, but seems to have been recorded as William Albert throughout his life. William’s parents were William Westmacott (b.1858), a baker and grocer, and Caroline, nee Boulton, known as Kate. In 1891 William (b.1858) was living next door to the Royal Oak in South Cerney with his father (yet another William, b.1823) and his uncle. Kate was their housekeeper. William and Kate married in 1893, when Kate, who was 14 years younger than her new husband, was pregnant with her first child, Gertrude May. William Albert came next, followed by Hilda Nellie, Percy Harry, Dorothy, who died as a baby, and Arthur James. By 1901 William’s father was a publican at the Plough Inn at Ashton Keynes. In 1904 their last child arrived, Reggie, who also died as a baby.

Some time between 1901 and 1911 William Albert left home and took lodgings with George and Eliza Ferris in Upper Greenhill (near Little Park and Bushton). In 1911, at the age of 16, William was working as a farm labourer. By this time his father was a tenant at 173 High Street, Wootton Bassett, (owned by Albert Wallis), and was working as a jobbing gardener. All William’s brothers and sisters were with his father, but William’s mother is not listed on the 1911 census and I have not managed to find her until her death in 1923. William’s sister Nellie was working as a mother’s help.

By 1916 William’s father had left the High Street; he may have moved to 4 Brookside, Wantage, Berkshire, where he was living in 1919, and in 1930 with William’s brother Jim. In 1918 William was registered as an Absent Military Voter at George Ferris’s address in Upper Greenhill.

William joined the Royal Flying Corps (119299) on the 17th January 1918, age 23, as an Air Mechanic 3rd class, the lowest ranking technical tradesman. He was 5 feet 5½ inches tall and had a 32 inch chest. He listed his father as his next of kin.

His duties would have included propeller swinging, handling aircraft movements, refuelling, and assisting senior mechanics. He was promoted on the 3rd March 1918 to Air Mechanic 2nd Class. He was sent out to France on the 29th March 1918 and was posted to the 1st Aircraft Depot in St Omer in France. This busy depot was responsible for supplying, repairing, and redistributing aircraft.

When the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged, on the 1st April 1918, William’s rank was realigned to the new designation Aircraftman/3. William was transferred to the 10th Brigade of the Royal Air Force on 12th June 1918, then on November 22nd 1918 he was transferred to the Royal Air Force HQ, 9th Brigade, where he served as a driver.

After the war William remained with the RAF in France until 4th March 1919 when he was demobilised at the dispersal centre at Fovant. However, he contracted influenza and pneumonia during a period of furlough, and died just 5 days after demobilisation, on the 9th March 1919, age 24.

William received the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. He was buried on March 13th in Wootton Bassett Cemetery, grave 502. His legatees were his father and his landlady Mrs Eliza Ferris nee Barnett.

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