William George Adams (seen on the right in the photo), my great-grandfather, was born at Brockwell Farm on the Chequers estate near Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, in 1888. His father, George, apprenticed his young son to a butcher, a profession that William hated as he loved animals and could not stand the abattoir. William did not last very long in butchery, and ran away around the age of 16 to join the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry, where he worked for a few years before he was discovered by a boy he knew from back home, who had also joined up. William’s father pulled him out of the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry at vast cost. Between then and the beginning of the war in 1914, William worked on the farm with horses. Maids and Harper, a Croydon firm, were impressed with his handling of the horses and offered him a job in their timber yard. So he moved to Croydon, where he met May, my great-grandmother.
William married Dorothy May Scutt in October 1914, not long after the outbreak of the war. Two daughters followed, Edith May (b. 1915) and Doreen Margaret (b. 1916), whose early childhood William would miss as a result of the war. He joined the 13th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment in August 1914, and was sent to France not long after signing up. He was shot in the arm and gassed quite early in the war, and spent time in hospital. At the time of my grandmother Doreen’s birth in December 1916, William was posted as missing. May, my great-grandmother, received a telegram saying he was dead. But fortunately this was a mistake and he did eventually return home. On one of his leaves, the first thing he said to her was “Don’t touch me, May, I am lousy!” He didn’t even go into the house until he had stripped down and washed himself off.
William was a first-class shot and signalman, for which he was paid an extra five shillings per week. He was encouraged to go for promotion by his commanding officer, but refused, for he was a gentle man who did not wish to be responsible for other people. After his refusal, he was sent to Cologne in Germany, with the Army of Occupation. He did not return home until September 1919. My grandmother was almost three years old and did not know her father. She cried when he came home and it took her a few days to approach him.
After the war, William enjoyed family life, gardening and going for long walks in the country. He was a country man who knew about wild flora and fauna. He became quite claustrophobic after the war and didn’t like to be enclosed, especially in the cinema. Presumably this was due to his early gassing experience, which left a lasting impression on him. William died in January 1960 in Croydon.
William George Adams b. 1888 Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, d. 1960 Croydon, Surrey, Private 13th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, is the relative of Aly White, Administrator, School of Histories, Languages and Cultures