Another of my north east men.
William Mitchinson was the third child of John Mitchinson and Elizabeth Smith who had married in Winlaton in the summer of 1876. Their first two children were born in Winlaton and William was born around June 1880 when the family was living in Newburn. When the census was taken in 1881 the family had moved to The Lodge, Walbottle. John was employed as a gardener and william’s older brother was living with his great uncle in Winlaton..
By 1891 John and Elizabeth were living with their two youngest daughters at Whitley Park Gardens in Whitley, but the older children, including ten yer old William, were living with their mother’s family at Rectory Lane, Winlaton. William’s great uncle was a painter, which could have influenced William in his choice of employment.
On 17 February 1900 William married Isabella Noakes Gamble at Tynemouth Register Office. When the census return was made in 1901 the couple lived in Winlaton and William was working as a house painter. Isabella gave birth to a son, Norman in February 1902, followed by twin daughters in 1904; both sadly died in infancy. Another son, Richard, was born in Cullercoats the following year, then James in June 1909 in Gosforth.
When the 1911 census was taken the family had moved house again. William, Isabella and the three boys were living at 12 Wilkie Street, Sheildfield, Newcastle. This time both William and Isabella listed their occupation as house painter. In December that year Issabella gave birth to another son, Martin.
William continued to work as a house painter, and when war broke out in 1914 he was quick to volunteer his services. As a married man with four sons, he was under no compulsion to enlist so early in the war, but on August 31 he went to North Shields and attested into the Northumberland Fusiliers. William was 34 years old, 5’4½” tall and weighed 131½ lbs. He had grey eyes, brown hair and a sallow complexion, and gave his religion as Church of England. He was issued with service number 11681 and on 1 September was posted into C Company in the newly formed 9th Battalion. William went off to start his basic training with the battalion near Wareham that month. In December the battalion moved to Wimborne, and on 17 December his son William was born in Whickham.
On 6 July 1915 after several months of training in the UK the battalion received orders that they were to be held in readiness to proceed on active service. The men stayed at Hursley Park, Winchester for a week, and on 15 July marched into Winchester to entrain for Folkestone. The men embarked on the ‘Invicta’ and sailed from Folkestone at 9.10am the following day, arriving at Boulogne at 11.00pm.
The men would soon get into the routine of being in the front line, in reserve and resting. On the night of 16/17 November the battalion moved from reserve near Vlamertinghe to Hooge, to relieve 6th Battalion Dorset Regiment. The war diary describes the trenches they were to take over: ‘ Owing to recent heavy rains the trenches taken over were in a deplorable condition, average depth of mud and water being about 2 feet. Throughout the day rain, hail and sleet fell continuously. Communication by day, (except by telephone) between battalion headquarters and the firing line was entirely cut off, all communication trenches having fallen in.’ The battalion remained in the Hooge area until 24 November.
At the end of the year the battalion was on the ramparts near the Menin Gate at Ypres, New Year’s Eve being a quiet day, with intermittent activity from the enemy on 1 January. In 1916 the battalion was involved with the Battle of Albert and the Battle of Delville Wood.
On 17 January 1917 the battalion moved into billets at La Nieuville, near Corbie for a period of training which lasted until 27 January. It was during this time, on 22 January, that William was appointed Lance Corporal. Most of February was spent either training in the camp at Bronfay, or in nearby trenches. On one of the marches that month William was ‘blind’ for a few seconds.
William went on to be involved in the first & second Battles of the Scarpe and the Capture of Roeux before he was sent to hospital on 25 September because of pains and weakness. He was invalided back to England on 16 October, having been diagnosed with Valvular Disease of the Heart. William spent the next ten weeks confined to bed, and made no improvement.
Isabella and the children were then living at 7 Back Ellison Road, Dunston.
In a medical report written at Bermondsey Military Hospital in February 1918 William submitted a personal statement ‘In November 1915 at Hooge, was chilled down several times from standing in water in the trenches. This was followed by pains in shins and ankle joints but no fever. In February 1917 became short of breath and was “blind” for a few seconds on the march…’ William was discharged from the army on 28 February 1918 because he was no longer physically to serve. He was awarded 100% disability, caused by exposure hardships of campaign. Hospital treatment as an outpatient was prescribed. He was awarded 27/6 pension and 15/- allowance for the four children still under age.
Sadly William’s health continued to deteriorate, and he died on 26 November, just two weeks after the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front. He was buried in Whickham (Garden House) cemetery. For his service to his country William earned the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His £16 War Gratuity was paid to Isabella.
Isabella stayed in the North East and in 1939 was living at 29 Cambridge Avenue, Whitley Bay with her son Martin, who was then a chef. Her youngest son, William also lived in Whitley Bay at 32 Maple Avenue. Isabella died in 1957.