Pte Williams Wilfred Claude

  • Year of birth: 1896
  • Place of birth: Dawlish, Devonshire, England, United Kingdom
  • Date of death: 31/07/1917
  • Place of death: St Julien, Belgium
  • Cause of death: Killed in action (K.I.A.)
  • Age: 21
  • Profession: Unknown
  • Country: England, United Kingdom
  • Rank: Private
  • Service number: 40149
  • Enlistment date: Unknown
  • Enlistment place: Exeter, Devonshire, England, United Kingdom
  • Last known unit: Unknown
  • Force: British Expeditionary Force

Memorial

Additional information

Private Wilfred Claude Williams served with “G” aka the 7th Battalion of the Royal Tank Corps. The 7th “G” Battalion participated in the opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres on the 31st of July 1917.
Two nights before Z day, 31 July 1917, the tanks moved into assembly positions near Frascati Farm, west of Wieltje. ‘Zero Hour’ was 03.50 on the morning of the 31 July. Lines had already been marked out with tape during previous nights. The tanks were to follow these lines towards starting point. However, only a couple of days before the beginning of the attack there had been 24 hours of rain which had already resulted in the postponement of ‘Z Day’. The constant shelling of the terrain had destroyed the banks of several irrigation streams around Ypres. Subsequently the rainwater had no way out and turned the lowlands in a bog.
In total, some 21 tanks were to support the infantry to take the Blue Line which was done successfully. But during the attack, the tanks were slowed down by difficulty to negotiate the bad ground conditions, when reaching the Steenbeek it was necessary to reconnoitre the ground in order to advance. This proved to be extremely dangerous due to heavy machine gun and rifle fire. Moreover, the tank corps went ahead of the infantry attack of the 9th Infantry Division which had to capture the blue line in the area of Sint-Juliaan, so no cover was available. After crossing the Steenbeek, some tanks of the “G” Battalion got stuck and the crew had to form a post and hold on to it until the infantry support came to get back to the assembly point. One tank reached its objective after the Germans had been driven out of the Cockcroft and the crew had to hold a line of shell holes while the commander of the tank had to fetch the infantry to consolidate the captured line.
Eight tanks from the 7th “G” Battalion supported the attack of the 51st Infantry Division. Tank G49 got stuck at the Blue Line and Tank G41 200 yards beyond the Blue Line. G51 reached Kitchener’s Wood while Tanks G44, G45 and G52 reached the Green Line after having dealt with several machine guns. Tank G50 reached Varna Farm after several engagements while Tank G42 reached the Black Line and worked all along it.
Thirteen other tanks from the 7th “G” Battalion were supporting infantry troops of the 39th Division closer to Sint-Juliaan, crossing the Steenbeek at Wine House. These included Tanks G1 to G13 and G45 to G47.
Private Wilfred Claude Williams served as Gunner in a Mark IV Tank of the 7th “G” Battalion but was killed in action on the 31st of July 1917. He presumably served with Tank G2 under Lt Mawer’s command or Tank G11 under the command of 2/Lt Lynch which were blown up by a direct hit from German shell fire at 11.20 and 11.15 am respectively, on the east bank of the Steenbeek, near Wine House while they were heading towards Springfield, northeast of Sint-Juliaan. His remains were never recovered but he is commemorated at the Menin Gate Memorial on Panel 56.