Thank you to Karen Wilson from Betchworth Village Archives for allowing us to publish her research.
William Woodman was born and baptised in Betchworth in 1879. He lived at Barley Mow Gardens (cottages behind the old Barley Mow which were demolished in the 1950s) until his marriage, when he moved to Brockham. On leaving school in 1893 he became a carpenter and wheel-wright and he worked for George Cummins for many years.
In June 1908 he married Alice Elizabeth Watts at St. Michael’s church; Alice had been born in Buckland. They moved to 3, Brookside Place in Brockham and were living there when William went to Reigate in December 1915 to take his oath of attestation which led to him being enlisted as a Private in the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment in June 1916. He was sent to France in October 1916 and almost immediately transferred to the 6th Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). He got his first home leave in November 1917; he was home for 12 days.
As a carpenter, part of his duties was to make the wooden crosses which were used to mark the burial places of his fellow service-men on the Western Front. On April 8th 1918, he had made five crosses and placed them on the graves. He had returned to his billet when a shell came over and killed him and two others instantly and wounded a sergeant who was standing next to him.
He was buried the next day in the Contay Cemetery and had a wooden cross erected on his grave. In a letter to his wife Alice, Corporal C. S. Dinne wrote: ‘It is with the deepest regret that I write to let you know the sad news of your dear husband’s death. He was killed on the 8th inst. by a shell which came through our billet. He was in my section and I am sorry to say that I have lost one of the best of my mates. He was buried the next day and I was present at the service. Please accept the deepest sympathy of all of the members of my section.’ His widow, Alice later received his effects which consisted of: letters, a razor, a religious book, cards, a tobacco pouch and an electric torch.
Alice chose the following to be inscribed on William’s headstone: ‘Too Far Away Thy Grave To See But Not Too Far To Think Of Thee’, a sentiment shared by thousands of families who never saw where their men were buried or commemorated in France.
Born Betchworth, Surrey
Lived Brockham, Surrey
Husband of Alice Elizabeth Woodman of Betchworth, Surrey
Son of Edward and Mary Woodman
Regiment 6th Battalion, The Buffs (East Surrey Regiment)
Previous Regiment 9th Battalion, Queen’s Royal Regiment, West Surrey, G/13180
Date of Death 8th April 1918
Place of Death France
Cause of Death Killed in Action
Cemetery Contay British Cemetery, Contay, Somme, France