William was born in Hempnall, Norfolk on 27June 1877. His parents were Jane (nee Leegood) and Ellis Page. His father was a farm labourer. They lived on the Street, Hempnall
His siblings were
Henry born 1869
Eliza born 1871
Rosa born 1873
Ellen born 1875
Jesse born 1879
James born 1881
The family lived on Church Street, Hempnall in 1891 and 1901 according to the census records of those years. In 1891 he was working as a farm labourer aged 13 years old.
By 1901 his father had died and he was living with his mother and his sister, Jesse, and brother, James. He was an agricultural labourer.
In 1911 he was still single but his nephew Albert Edward Atkins Page was living with him. Albert was the son of Eliza Page, William’s sister. She was a single woman who was working in Norwich as a servant.
Sometime during the First World War William and Albert moved to live in the Street, Saxlingham Nethergate. They are both on the war memorial and on the List of Absent Voters in 1918.
William enlisted in the Norfolk Regiment, Service number 29167 and then transferred to 1/1st Cambridgeshire Regiment. His service numbers were 6880 and then 328189. His service records have not survived but it is known that he was reported missing on 24 May 1918. He was later found to be a prisoner of war in Germany.
He was taken prisoner on 26 March 1918 in Fricourt, which is near Albert in France.
At the end of March 1918 the Germans began a Spring Offensive. The 1/1st Cambridgeshire regiment were initially on the Western Front as reserves. On 22 March they were sent to the Front Line as the Germans were trying to take Amiens. By late afternoon they could not hold the trenches where they were and moved back. Their retreat continued on 24 and 25 March 1918 and they ended up in Herbecourt. They established a new front line there by 4 am on 26 March but could not hold it. The men became separated into small groups.
‘it was said in the history of the regiment that March 26th was one of the “most trying days experienced by the Cambridgeshire during the whole campaign”
From 21st – 30th March 380 men from the regiment were either killed, wounded of taken prisoner. William was one of those taken prisoner.
He was taken to a prisoner of war camp in Germany. The camp was at Gustrow. The camp was in pinewoods about 5 kilometres from the town of the same name. It was a large camp with 250 barracks. Some reports say these barracks each held 50 – 100 men but others say they housed 250 men. They were sparsely furnished with bunk beds, a few tables and benches and 2 stoves.
Catholic Church, Gustrow Camp
The camp had a narrow gauge railway for transporting food and goods within the site. There was a church and a room which the prisoners used as a theatre. Boredom was a problem for many of the men and theatre groups helped to pass the time.
The camp held 25,000 prisoners and was also the base for 25,000 others who worked from the camp.
When captured, the men were transported by train to Priemerburg railway station, which was close by. They then had to march 2 kilometres to the camp. Compared to some prisoner of war camps, conditions at Gustrow were considered to be reasonable.
Priemerburg Railway Station, First World War
On 22 August 1918 the Germans recorded details about William’s whereabouts and where he was captured. His address was given as The Street, Saxlingham Nethergate.
On 14 December 1918 the War Office released details that he had been a prisoner of war in Germany and that he had now arrived back in England.
He arrived in Dover on 2 December 1918.
He returned to Saxlingham Nethergate after the war. He lived at a house on the Street with his nephew till 1926.
In 1926 he married Phoebe Emma Moore, born 6 September 1890. Her father was a market gardener and her family lived on Shotesham Lane, Saxlingham. After their marriage they lived near Low Farm, Saxlingham Green. William continued to work as a labourer.
It is thought that they had a child. In 1939 they were at the same address and there is a child living there whose name is withheld.
William died in March 1953 and Phoebe in 1977.
England & Wales, Birth, marriage, death index 1837-2005
UK Census Collection
British Army Medal Roll Index cards, 1914-1920
1939 Register- www.findmypast.co.uk
Norfolk Electoral Rolls-Southern Division Saxlingham Nethergate and Thorpe, (Absent Voters Lists 1918-1920) 1920-1931
Prisoner of War Records held by the Red Cross. https://grandeguerre.icrc.org
Military Hospitals, Admissions and Discharge Registers WW1 www.forces-war-records.co.uk
www.palmer1powtrail.wordpress.com Information and photographs of Gustrow Prisoner of War Camp. Some of the photographs are originally from the Australian War Memorial
www.cambridgeshireregiment 1914-18 co.uk
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