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William Fox-Pitt Survived Gunshot Wound and Pneumonia

William Augustus Fitzgerald Lane Fox-Pitt enlisted with the Cheshire’s and transferred to Sherwood Foresters then the Welsh Guards.
An interview with William Fox-Pitt is available on the Imperial War Museum website http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/search

William was living in Anglesey after attending Charterhouse school and was planning to go to university but war broke out. His father (also named William) didn’t want him to become a soldier, but as there were five generations of the family in the Grenadier Guards, his father sought a commission in the Welsh Guards for William, who also had a certificate A from the Officer Training Corps at Charterhouse. He became a Commissioned Officer in the Special Reserve.

William was sent to join the Cheshire Regiment at Birkenhead, where he did drills, weapons training and night patrols at the docks in Liverpool. At this time William was only 18 years old and his family wanted him to serve with the Cheshire Regiment.  William did not have any contact with the Bantam Battalions here. He felt the men should not be separated into distinct Battalions, but felt that they should be mixed up as height did not matter.

In October 1914 William transferred to the Sherwood Foresters, after they had suffered heavy losses at Armentieres in France. Officers and men from other Regiments were drafted in as replacements. William went to front line with the 2nd Battalion, Sherwood Foresters and was billeted in nearby farm buildings. At this stage in the war there was few shells fired and few shell holes peppering the ground, but there were snipers in the area.

In the run up to Christmas 1914 William recalls they were told not to fraternise with the German troops, but they did later hear of occurrences of the fraternisation and truce along the front.

In February 1915 William got his first leave, but at this time he was also suffering from trench foot. When he returned home his father had managed to get William transferred to the Welsh Guards, so he never returned to the Sherwood Foresters. William’s father was in command of a unit with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, but William did not want to join them. The Welsh Guards had only recently been formed and officers were transferred from different regiments. William was involved in further training and drills.

In August 1915 William was posted with 1st Battalion Welsh Guards to St Omer and then later saw action at the Battle of Loos. William was in the Reserve when the Guards Brigade were sent to the front.

As he had previously completed machine gun training William was transferred to the Machine Gun Section of the Guards Division at Hohenzollern. Here William was wounded in the head. He was hit by shrapnel and was sent back to England within 24 hours to recover. He was quickly sent to a Casualty Clearing Station then travelled by train to the coast. William spent time at Lady Ridley’s Hospital in Carlton House Terrace and then spent time at home convalescing.

After his recovery William was sent to Guards Depot to train the new recruits for 6 months in Caterham before returning to France in July 1916. He joined his battalion at Ypres and spent the next few weeks marching down to the Somme. At this time William was acting Company Commander, following illness of the original officer. William and his Company went through Mametz Wood and Happy Valley in September 1916 after the main battles. The Welsh Guards were scheduled to hold the line in preparation for a large attack on 15th September at Ginchy. William and his men saw tanks for the first time here.

They remained in the area all winter where William contacted bronchial pneumonia around Christmas due to the cold and wet conditions. He was invalided back to England during December 1916, after spending time in Rouen. William would not be declared fit for the front for many months.

Late in 1916 he was made Adjutant Captain, the Staff Officer to the Commanding Officer of a unit.

In July 1917 he went back to France and re-joined his Battalion and was given command of the Prince of Wales Company at the Hindenburg Line. Following an attack at the Canal du Nord William was shot in the knee whilst walking across the open country. He was sent back to England within a fortnight of embarking for France. William would remain at home for the duration of the war and was made Adjutant of the battalion coming home from Germany.

William was in London when the Armistice was declared. He remained in the military and served during the Second World War.

On 31st July 1931 William married Mary Stewart Sinclair. The couple had two children William Oliver Lane Fox-Pitt, born in 1931 and Edward Arthur Mervyn Lane Fox-Pitt, born in 1935.

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