Lance Corp. 13819, 11th Bn, Suffolk Regiment
Died 28th April 1917, aged 21
Remembered at Brown’s Copse Cemetery, Roeux & Field Dalling
but not in Blakeney
William Bilham was born in 1896 at Field Dalling, the son of John and Ellen Bilham who came from Flordon and Hethersett respectively. The 1911 census shows William, aged 15, as an under gardener living at home with his parents and younger sister on the Langham Road in Field Dalling . There are only the briefest of records for William; a Medal Card, the fact that he enlisted at Cambridge and that his parents were at that time living at Greencroft, Blakeney. They were later to move to the New Road, Blakeney where they ran a small shop from their home.
The circumstances of William’s death are unknown, but coincidentally the 28th April was the start of the second phase of the Battle of Arras when the British Front Line was to attack the German lines to the east, flattening Roeux in the process. The 11th Suffolks were to play a key role, taking the Old Chemical Works and the Chateau at Roeux. The 10th Lincolns were on their right and the 15th Royal Scots beyond them with the River on their flank.
It was a difficult day in the face of strong resistance and was described by the Divisional Commander as “… began badly, continued badly and ended worse”. The attack on the Chemical Works was a costly failure for the Suffolks; 17 officers and 610 men went into the assault with 7 officers and 325 other ranks becoming casualties. Of these, 103 men lost their lives.
William is remembered at Roeux, scene of the Battle, 8 kilometres east of Arras. He is buried at Brown’s Copse in the cemetery designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Meanwhile his grieving parents chose to have his name placed on the memorial at Field Dalling where he was born rather than Blakeney where the family were now established.