Rolls of Honour: St Luke’s, Eccleshill; Menin Gate Memorial
Regiment: Duke of WEllington’s
William Kirk came from a Lincolnshire family. He was born on the 7th July 1879 and baptised at St Martin’s in Lincoln on the 14th August 1879, the son of inn keeper Richard Kirk born 1839 in Lincoln and Sarah Bell born 1844 in Lincoln. William’s father Richard died in 1887 aged 47 years and in 1891 the family were living at 101 Runwick Road, Lincoln. Sarah is now head of the family and has kept the position of beerhousekeeper to support the family. It appears that she is also selling milk as she is also shown as a cowkeeper. In 1901 the family are living at 31 Melville Street, Lincoln. Sarah now has a shop and is working as a general dealer. William is still at home and his occupation is shown as iron moulder. Sometime after this date William enlisted in the
Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and saw service in South Africa during the Boer War and also in India.On his return to England William had moved to live in Wolverhampton where in 1909 he married Emily Jane Reynolds who had been born in Wolverhampton in 1887. She had employment as a servant. William and his wife Emily moved to Bradford where he found work as a stableman with the Midland Railway Company and in 1911 the family were living at 6 Thornton Buildings in Idle Road. They had one son Thomas born 1910. By 1914 William had moved to work as a driver for the Valley Combing Company.
When war broke out William was one of the first to enlist on that day becoming Private 6411 in the 2nd Battalion Duke of Wellington. Having previously served in the army he was a reservist and he was called for action on the 12th September. On the 11th of November 1914 the Germans launched a desperate attack on Ypres and the Regiment lost over 400 officers and men, including William. He was 35 years old.He is remembered at the Menin Gate as one of the many who had walked along this road towards Ypres, had lost their lives there and whose body was never recovered for burial.With thanks to Jean Britteon for sharing her research
The following piece appeared in the Shipley Times & Express on 11 December 1914. While much of the story is of William’s friend, it does give some insights into the early stages of the war.Among the list of casualties in the West Yorkshire Regiments who have lost heavily in a number of engagements, is the name of Pte William Kirk of 6 Thornton Buildings, Idle Road, Undercliffe.When the hostilities commenced, he was on the 2nd Reserve, having served 14 years with the Regulars.Boer WarKirk went through the Boer War and was granted the medal with three bars. When the campaign in Africa terminated, he was drafted to India.Being a good exponent of the art of
self-defence, he had met many promising young men in the boxing profession, including the middleweight champion of India.Previous to rejoining the Colours at the outbreak of the present war, he had been employed by the Midland Railway Company, and later still by the Valley Combing Company.His regiment left for France on September 16th.ComradeIn his letters home only once does he mention actual fighting and that was to say one of his comrades, named Casey, had been wounded and had gone down the line. This comrade returned to England and visited Pte Kirk’s wife to whom he reported that when he left France her husband was quite well and fighting in the trenches.
Casey related how he was wounded. He was on outpost duty and seeing a German on guard was on the point of getting behind a tree to take aim at him but the German was quicker and plugged a bit of lead into his leg.Worse injuryCasey spoke of famished German soldiers coming to the British trenches for bread and remaining as prisoners.Having recovered from his injury, Casey has gone back to the front line. His friends have since heard that he has suffered a worse injury, having had a leg blown off by a shell.The last postcard Mrs Kirk had from her husband was dated November 9th. It stated that he was quite well and had received her letter.
The next message was from the War Office on December 2nd to the effect that her husband had been killed in action on the 11th November. This intimation was accompanied by expressions of sympathy from the King and Queen.Coloured woolKirk was proud of his regiment. On the walls of his stricken home is a picture worked by him in coloured wool of the flag of his regiment, bearing the names of its engagements and its motto.The deceased was 35 years of age and was a native of Lincolnshire. He was an excellent workman and highly respected by those who knew him. He leaves a widow and one child.