Private 42161, 9th Battalion Essex Regiment
Died 19th September 1918, aged 19
Remembered at Doingt Communal Cemetery Extension
& on both Blakeney War Memorials
William was born in Blakeney, 1898, the fifth son and last child of 10 born to Samuel Pyke, blacksmith, and his wife Mary Ann Pyke nee Harvey. His parents were born in Cley and Blakeney respectively and married in Blakeney, 1880, where they lived and all their children were born. William’s siblings were Alice May, Matilda Edith, Mildred May, William Samuel (1886-1887), William (1888-1888), Elizabeth Jane, Frederick Walter (1892-1917), Emma Eliza and Herbert Ernest.
By 1911, the Census records William, aged 12, living with his widowed mother, brother Frederick and sister Emma at No. 24 High Street, Blakeney. William was possibly still at school since no occupation is recorded for him. He enlisted at Cromer and was initially placed with the Hertfordshire Yeomanry (106287) before being transferred to the 9th Bn. Essex Regiment. There are no Service Records for William, only his medal card and the briefest of details given on his listing of the “Soldiers died in the Great War 1914-1919 Transcription”. The latter includes the information that he died from wounds.
These injuries may have occurred either when the Fourth Army engaged the enemy at the Battle of Epehy, France September 18th or in the lead up to this engagement. This large scale offensive, part of an advance to break the Hindenburg Line, ranks amongst the greatest ever British military achievement and although the Germans carried on fighting, their ability to continue was declining fast. At long last, after 4 years of bloody battle, the end was in sight.
William may not even have been on the Front Line when he died but further away in a hospital. We simply do not know. What is certain however, is that William Pyke was the last of the Blakeney teenagers to lose his life in the war and also the last of Mary Ann’s five sons to die, the second of two she lost to the war. Moreover, he was the last Blakeney casualty to die on a battle field.
William is buried in a cemetery extension in a small village on the eastern outskirts of Peronne, alongside 418 other war casualties. His grave, at his mother’s request, has the added inscription “At Rest” just as she had requested for her son Frederick Pyke who lost his life outside Jerusalem, two days before Christmas 1917. Both brothers are remembered on the Blakeney War Memorials.