Topic: William Fleming

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A soldier of the Great War killed in action during fighting at La Basseville.

Fleming, William Private William Fleming - 15078     

William was born in Victoria, Australia, 4 June 1884, eldest son of William and Bessie Fleming who settled in Christchurch. He came to New Zealand only a few years before the war. Until the time of his enlistment with the 14th Reinforcements he was in the employ of Mr Sandford, of Greendale. He was an active member of the local Cricket Club, holding the position of treasurer until he left on active service. He was also a member of the Court Richard Stephens, Ancient Order of Foresters being a Past Chief Ranger of that Court. The Ancient Order of Foresters was a  Friendly Society first registered in 1834 for “the best and purest purposes; the visitation and relief of their sick members, the decent interment of the dead, and the relief of the industrious poor”. He was 5ft 7 3/4 in tall with a fair complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair. His distinguishing features were scars on his right knee and tibia.

William enlisted on 7 March 1916 and was assigned to the 14th Reinforcements, Canterbury Infantry Battalion, C Company. He was placed in isolation at Featherstone camp on 8 June 1916 because of illness. He was promoted to Lance Corporal 20 June 1916. A Lance Corporal was responsible for a section or a tent or other small group of men. He was then posted to the Canterbury Regiment and embarked on 26 June 1916 from Wellington arriving in Devonport and Sling Camp on 22 August 1916. As was usual he then reverted to the ranks. He left for France on 19th Sept and was at Base Depot Etaples on 20th, joining his unit on 3rd October in the field. He was sent to No 7 General Hospital at St Omer sick with mumps on 25th April and only returned to his unit on 14 May, three weeks later. A few weeks later 8 June he was wounded, a gunshot wound to the neck. He was admitted to the No 11 Casualty Clearing station and then to the No 14 General Hospital at Wimereux on 8 June. The wound was slight and he was sent to convalesce at Boulogne before joining the reserves at Base Depot Etaples for a couple of weeks, re-joining his unit again on 25th July. He was killed in action 16 August1917 as New Zealand forces captured and attempted to hold La Basseville under heavy artillery bombardment and sniping. As the weather was very wet trenches became filled thigh deep with mud. As his body was not found or identified his name is inscribed on the Messines Memorial to the Missing. In New Zealand William is remembered on the Malvern County and Greendale War Memorials.                                                                                                                       


Messines (now Mesen) was considered a strong strategic position, not only from its height above the plain below, but from the extensive system of cellars under the convent known as the 'Institution Royale'. The village was taken from the 1st Cavalry Division by the German 26th Division on 31 October-1 November 1914. An attack by French troops on 6 -7 November was unsuccessful and it was not until the Battle of Messines on 7 June 1917 that it was retaken by the New Zealand Division. On 10-11 April 1918, the village fell into German hands once more after a stubborn defence by the South African Brigade, but was retaken for the last time on 28-29 September 1918. The MESSINES RIDGE (NEW ZEALAND) MEMORIAL stands within Messines Ridge British Cemetery and commemorates over 800 soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force who died in or near Messines in 1917 and 1918 and who have no known grave. This is one of seven memorials in France and Belgium to those New Zealand soldiers who died on the Western Front and whose graves are not known. The memorials are all in cemeteries chosen as appropriate to the fighting in which the men died. MESSINES RIDGE BRITISH CEMETERY, in which this memorial stands, occupies ground that belonged to the 'Institution Royale'. It was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefield around Messines and from a number of small burial grounds in the area. The dates of death of those buried here range from October 1914 to October 1918, but the majority died in the fighting of 1917. There are now 1,531 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 954 of the burials are unidentified but special memorials commemorate a number of casualties known or believed to be buried among them, or who were buried in other cemeteries where their graves were destroyed by shell fire. Both cemetery and memorial were designed by Charles Holden.

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William Fleming

First Names:William
Last Name:Fleming
Date of Birth:4 June 1884
Place of Birth:Victoria, Australia
Date of Death:16 August 1917
Place of Death:Ypres, Belgium
Memorial or Cemetery:Messines Ridge Memorial
Age at death:33
User Name:Selwyn Library
Occupation before enlisting:Gocer
Marital Status:Single
Nominal Roll:34/10
Regiment or Service:Canterbury Regiment, 2nd Battalion
Enlistment details:7th March 1916
Parents or Next of Kin:Son of William and Bessie Fleming of 316, Hereford St, Christchurch
Service Number:15078
Rank last held:Private`
Embarkation:26 June 1916
Place of Embarkation:Wellington
Transport:Maunganui or Tahiti
Theatres of War:Western Front
Cause of Death:Killed in action