Peasants to Puddles
My Family History - By Nicky Rowberry

William Orr Saidler- Private 43165

This page is dedicated to the memory of William Orr Saidler who died 22nd October 1917 in Belgium.

William Orr Saidler was born in 1895 in Linlithgowshire, Scotland and died on 22nd October 1917 in Belgium, one of the many millions of men who lost their lives in World War 1. It seemed sad for him to have died and all but these bare facts remembered, so I've tried to find out at least a little about his life until his untimely death aged just 22.

William Orr Saidler was born on 5th October 1895 at Halfway Cottage in Whitburn, Linlithgowshire. He was the last of 7 children born to Thomas Saidler and his wife Grace Orr. Two of his older siblings had died in infancy, so William grew up with 4 siblings. His father Thomas Saidler was a farm worker who had moved up from Lanarkshire, presumably in the pursuit of work.

By 1901 the family were living at 15 Gideon Street, Bathgate. One of William's sisters, Christina Saidler, had already married, but the remaining siblings were all still living at home with their parents. In addition there was 3 year old Grace Saidler (or Shanks) the daughter of William's older sister Margaret. William and his 2 brothers were still at school. William at least seems to have gone to Bathgate Academy as he was listed as a former pupil there when their Memorial Plaque was unveiled. Sadly tragedy struck the family a few years later when William's father Thomas Saidler died in 1906 aged just 48. Grace was left to look after the family alone, with William still only about 10. By 1911 the remains of the family, Grace, William & Thomas junior were living in at 23 Gideon Street, Bathgate, along with William's widowed sister and her children. Also present were 2 other grandchildren and 2 adult visitors. There were 10 people in all, living in a dwelling with only 2 rooms that had windows. It must have been terribly cramped. William Saidler was by this time working for the railways as an engine cleaner.

William's older brother John Saidler had already emigrated to Canada in 1909. He returned home in 1913 for a holiday, enthusing about the life he had in Canada. His story was reported in the local newspaper the West Lothian Courier. Image THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).

Perhaps John's description of a "freer" life in Canada persuaded William's other brother Thomas to join him and the two sailed back to Canada in 1913. William remained at home in Scotland.

When war was declared in 1914 all three Saidler men joined up early on; sadly only the oldest brother John was to survive the war. Britain declared war on 4th August 1914 and by 26th September William Saidler had signed up in Bathgate, joining the 10th Battalion of the Royal Scots. His mother was probably very proud when his name was listed with fellow recruits in the West Lothian Courier the following March.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website revealed that William was a Private in the 15th Battalion of the Royal Scots, his service number was 43165 and that he was commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium. I can't reproduce the CWGC photo of the cemetery, but to see his page please click here

Luckily William's army service records have survived, (much of the British Army World War One Service Records were destroyed when the War Office was bombed in London in 1940 and although William's records survive they are in a terrible state) so we get some idea of his time in the army. He joined up as a Private in the army, but spent several periods promoted to Lance Corporal, first from February to July 1916 and then again from September 1916 to April 1917. It looks like he got demoted each time for being "absent off pass" - not a deserter, just late for roll call it seems. He had initially joined the 10th Battalion of the Royal Scots, but was variously moved round the 2nd and 3rd battalions before finally ending up in the 15th battalion. He remained in the UK until 29th July 1916 when he was sent overseas and joined the 2nd battalion. William was wounded in action on 13th November 1916 with a gunshot wound to his right thigh, probably while still with the 2nd Battalion, who took part in a major offensive at Serre that day. William was probably one of the 151 Other Ranks listed as being wounded in the attack, with dozens also killed or missing under the heavy machine gun fire. He was sent back to the UK on 16th November 1916. It looks like William remained in the UK until 4th April 1917.

Although he was wounded in November 1916, it doesn't seem to have been reported in the local newspaper until January 1917. Image Reach plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

While back home in Scotland, William married Jeannie Fleming Burton on 24th February 1917 in Pollockshields. William was described as being a coal miner, but also that he was a Lance Corporal in the Royal Scots. The young couple couldn't have had long together, as William returned to active service in early April and they may never have seen each other again. By October 1917 William would have been with his battalion in the Rue Delpierre region near Erquinghem. In the weeks leading up to his death, the battalion had made use of the fine weather to improve their trenches, ready for the coming winter. The war diaries for the 15th Battalion don't mention much enemy action for late October, yet William was apparently wounded in the shoulder and then shot again by a sniper when being brought back behind the lines.

William Saidler's death was reported in a couple of local newspapers. The Linlithgowshire Gazette reported it on 9th November 1917. Image Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

His death was also reported in The Midlothian Advertiser on 9th and 30th November 1917. Images Johnston Press plc. Images created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

You can now look at the Medal Roll cards from the first world war online. These show a soldier's name, rank and what medals they were entitled to. Due to copyright issues, I don't think I can reproduce the image of the medal card, so instead I've transcribed it:

NameCorpsRankRegtl No.
SAIDLERR ScotsPte43165
William   
Medal.RollPageRemarks
VICTORYD/101 B181871 
BRITISH"" 
STAR   
    
Theatre of War first served in  
Date of entry therein  

Sadly his medal card doesn't seem to have been filled in fully as there is no reference to his death nor his service overseas. I think he would have been entitled to 2 medals. The British Medal was awarded to servicemen who served in a theatre of war between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918. The Victory Medal (Allied Victory Medal) was awarded for service in any operational theatre over the same time frame. The Star was awarded to all those who served in any theatre of war against Germany between 5th August 1914 and 31st December 1915. Because William didn't get posted overseas until 1916, I don't think he qualified for the Star.

William is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium. The Tyne Cot Memorial lists thousands of men whose bodies were never found - William was one of these.

According to a report in the West Lothian Courier in 1921, William Saidler was listed on a brass plaque commemorating those pupils who died in WW1. Sadly the plaque now seems to have been lost. He is also remembered back home on the Bathgate memorial (along with his brother Thomas). Images below courtesy of John Paton.

William's wife Jeanie and his mother Grace were named as next of kin on his war records for his pension. His mother would also have received a war pension for William's brother Thomas who had died the year before.

I've not been able to find a photo of William Saidler yet, but his service records describe him as 5 feet 7 inches (about average for a soldier in WW1) with good physical development and with a 36 inch chest. We do have the photo below of his brother John, who survived the war, so perhaps this gives some hint of what William might have looked like.

So that's all I've managed to find so far about William Orr Saidler. Many thanks to John Paton and Meg Stenhouse for all their help and for sharing their photos. It would be lovely to be able to add a photograph of William one day. He was survived by one brother and 2 sisters, so hopefully there are some descendants of these out there still. It would be lovely to hear from anyone who is related to William Saidler and can perhaps add to his story. If you can add to William's story, please feel free to contact me at: n.rowberry@btinternet.com

In researching William's final days, several sites have been invaluable, so I've included links to some of them here.

The official Government source of genealogical data for Scotland:

The British Newspaper Archive:

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is a great site to start with to give you the basic details you would need to then start digging deeper:


If any of the above is of further interest, please feel free to contact me at: n.rowberry@btinternet.com

Nicky Rowberry 2021

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Peasants to Puddles - My Family History. By Nicky Rowberry