SECOND LIEUTENANT WILLIAM TOWERS
6th Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
Formerly 15/907, Sergeant, 15th (1st Leeds) (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment.
|The bdage of the Leeds Pals
William Towers was born in Harrogate on 7 June 1894. He was the son of Joseph Francis and Betsy Towers who lived at 96 Station Parade in the town. Joseph and Betsy had two other children, Joseph who was
born in 1893, and Kathleen who was two years younger than William. Joseph senior was a Poor Rate Collector and earned enough
to employ a children’s nurse and a domestic servant to help out in the day to day running of the household, which also
included his sister in law, who was a baker and confectioner. Altogether the household comprised seven permanent residents
with two visitors on census night in 1901. By 1916, according to the Kelly’s Directory for Leeds, Joseph Francis Towers was making
his living as an Artificial Teeth Maker.
Prior to joining the Leeds Pals Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment,
the family had moved to Ash Villa, Victoria Road, Headingley in Leeds. It is likely that this move took place when William Towers was still quite young, as he educated at St Bede’s College in Heaton, Bradford. The school
is still in existence today as a specialist science comprehensive school. He later attended Leeds Catholic College. He was, after leaving school, employed
as an assistant magistrate’s clerk at Leeds Town Hall.
On his enlistment papers William Towers stated that he had served 4 years in the
Leeds Territorial Army unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps and had left when his engagement ended. Joining in 1909, he must
have been only 15 on his enlistment as a territorial soldier. Rather than attempt to rejoin his old unit, he chose to join
the newly raised Leeds Pals, still known then as the Leeds City Battalion. His Attestation Papers state that he was a bugler.
|The Badge of the Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
Will Towers, as he was now known, was soon appointed to be an Acting
Lance Corporal, this being done on 28 October 1915, and he was confirmed in the rank, and paid for it, almost 6 months later
in May 1916. In the wake of the disaster that was the battalion’s near destruction in front of Serre on the Somme he was promoted
Corporal and appointed Lance Sergeant on 25 July 1916. A month later he was appointed Acting Sergeant, and then curiously, promoted
sergeant the same day.
Sergeant Towers was wounded for the first time on 9 November 1916; his medical history sheet states that he had contusions to his back and legs.
The battalion War Diary for 9 November tells of a fighting patrol around John Copse in front of Serre on the Somme which was caught
by an enemy artillery barrage and resulted in ‘about 5 or 6 casualties’. His record is quite detailed in describing
the journey back along the evacuation chain. His first call would have been his own regimental aid post and then he was taken
back to 94 Field Ambulance. From there he was sent on to 43 Casualty Clearing Station at Warlencourt. His journey ended when
he arrived at 11 General Hospital which was based at Camiers. The journey from fighting patrol to general hospital had taken
some 14 days. After a period of only another 11 days in hospital he was discharged to 33 Infantry Base Depot at Etaples where
he would have been held until a draft was ready to be sent up to the battalion.
Will Towers was one of the original
Leeds Pals, and this is reflected in his service number which carried the 15/- prefix denoting the 15th Battalion of the West
Yorkshire Regiment, the official Army designation for the Leeds Pals Battalion. He served with the battalion from 14 September
1914 through until 18 July 1917 when he was posted to the depot of the West Yorkshire Regiment at York prior to his being
discharged in order to take up his temporary commission as a second lieutenant in the East Kent Regiment, popularly known
as ‘The Buffs’. He received his officer training at 16th Officer Cadet Battalion which was based at Kinmel Camp,
close to the North Wales seaside resort of Rhyl in Clwyd. He was finally gazetted as Second
Lieutenant William Towers on 26th February 1918.
Will Towers was posted to the 3rd Battalion of the East Kent Regiment which was the regiment’s
reserve battalion. Here he would have finished and consolidated his officer training as well as learning the traditions and
folklore of his new regiment until he was drafted to an active service battalion. When his turn came he was posted to the
1st Battalion and then attached to the 6th Battalion. On 20th June
1918, while serving with the 6th that he was again wounded. During
the previous night, the artillery had carried out what was called a ‘Chinese attack’ on the enemy trenches opposite.
A Chinese attack was when the artillery bombarded the enemy positions as if it was a prelude to an infantry attack and then
lifted the barrage as would normally happen. No infantry would attack, but after a brief period (to allow the enemy to man
their fire step) the barrage would return to the original targets in the hope that it would catch the enemy out of their dugouts.
2nd Lt Towers was involved in a patrol sent out to the enemy trenches to recover unit identities and documents which would
have some value to the intelligence staff. The Germans opposite spotted the patrol and engaged it with machine-gun and rifle-fire
inflicting 13 casualties and leaving Lt Edgar Robinson and two other ranks dead and wounding Will Towers in his right forearm.
Enemy artillery retaliation caused the death of a further soldier and so it was that the 6th Battalion The Buffs lost Privates
John Brown, Walter Dove and Frederick Hewitt killed in Action at Aveluy Wood on that day.
2nd Lt Towers was evacuated
through the No. 3 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Doullens, and from there to No. 8 General Hospital based at Rouen, and he finally arrived at 3rd Southern
General Hospital in Oxford on 26th June 1918, where he stayed until discharged on 28th August to the 3rd Reserve Battalion at Dover. He was kept at the Dover Garrison
for the remainder of his service and was finally released from military service on 1st February 1919.
While living in Scholes,
his address was Hardy Terrace.