33027 Private William Heaviside, 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry was killed in action, 7 June 1917 and is buried at Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, France.[1]  He was 31 years old, married with 4 children and is commemorated on the West Auckland War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, Memorial Hall, West Auckland.

William’s nephew, Ralph was killed in the Great War. Ralph was Richard’s son (William eldest brother).  51585 Private Ralph Heaviside, 22nd (Tyneside Scottish) battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers was killed in action 6 September 1918 aged 18 and is buried at Pernes British Cemetery, France[2] and commemorated on the Evenwood War Memorial.

Family Details

William Heaviside was born 1886 at Evenwood the son of Ralph and Hannah Heaviside.  There were at least 9 children:[3]

  • Mary bc.1865
  • Richard bc.1868
  • Ralph bc.1873
  • George bc.1876
  • Sarah bc.1879
  • John bc.1882
  • Hannah bc.1884
  • William bc.1886
  • Phoebe bc.1889

In 1891, the family lived at Thrushwood, Evenwood and 5 year old William lived with his 26 year old sister Mary and her husband William Morley and his 23 year old brother Richard and his wife Mary.  Both William Morley and Richard Heaviside worked as coal miners.

William married Edith Spark 6 August 1907 and they had 4 children:[4]

  • Annie born 24 September 1909
  • Wilson born 9 February 1910
  • John born 10 April 1913
  • Harold born 3 July 1915

William was employed as a hairdresser and the family lived at Mill Bank, West Auckland.

Military Details

 William Heaviside attested 9 December 1915 at Bishop Auckland when aged 29 years 10 months. [5]  He underwent a medical examination 31 May 1916.  He was 5”7” tall and weighed 103 lbs. and whist his physical development was described as “poor” he was considered fit for military service.[6]  Private William Heaviside was initially posted to the 20th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry[7] and was given the regimental number 33027.  He entered France via Folkestone 10 October 1916 and joined the 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry “B” Company in the field 26 October 1916.[8]

The 2nd Battalion was a regular army unit and came under the orders of the 18th Brigade, 6th Division. 10 September 1914, the Division landed at St. Nazaire and proceeded to the Western Front where it remained throughout the war.  It arrived in time to reinforce the BEF on the Aisne before the whole army was moved north to Flanders.  By 1917, the 18th Brigade comprised:

  • 1st Battalion, the West Yorkshires
  • 11th (Service) Battalion, the Essex
  • 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry
  • 14th (Service) Battalion, the DLI
  • 18th Brigade Machine Gun Company formed February 1916
  • 18th Trench Mortar Battery joined April 1916

The Battle Honours of the 2/DLI include Aisne 1914; Armentieres 1914; Hooge 1915; Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Le Transloy, Somme 1916; Hill 70, Cambrai 1917; Somme 1918.

Private William Heaviside served at home between 9 December 1915 and 10 October 1916 and in France between 11 October 1916 and 7 June 1917.[9]

 Over the winter of 1916 into the spring of 1917, the 6th Division occupied positions at the La Bassee sector and on the Loos Salient.  The month of March and the first portion of April 1917 were notable for raids and counter-raids, considerable artillery and trench mortar activity which:

 “gave place to more or less continuous fighting consequent on the withdrawal of the enemy opposite the right of the Division after the successful attack by the Canadians at Vimy.” [10]

June was notable for trench raids, 2/DLI were involved 6 June 1917:

  • 1st – 1stS.L.I. (3 officers and 130 other ranks under Capt. E. Spink MC) raided enemy near Hendon Alley – 16 Germans killed and machine gun entrenchments blown in.
  • 4th – Two officers and 40m other ranks of 1stS.L.I. raided same trenches and got in but no prisoners taken.
  • 6th – Small raid 2ndL.I. (2 officers and 50 other ranks) unsuccessful – enemy barrage too heavy.
  • 8th – Enemy small raid on 9th Suffolk’s at Newport Sap repulsed – 4 enemy dead left on our wire.
  • 10th – 9th Suffolk’s (3 officers and 94 other ranks) raided as far as enemy support trenches but found no-one.” [11]

So was the nature of warfare in the Loos Salient sector.  Between 2 March and 25 July 1917 there were 4,884 casualties as a result of “Raids and attacks, Hill 70.” [12]

In June 1917 2/DLI was stationed at Loos-en-Gohelle between Bethune and Lens in northern France. At this time nightly shelling and sporadic raids upon the opposing trenches was the order of the day.  On the night of 6/7 June a raid was launched upon the German lines with the object of bringing back prisoners in order to gather intelligence.  A party of about 35 men was lightly armed, some with rifles and machine guns, some with flares and some, including Private W. Heaviside armed with “Knobkerries”.  The German barbed wire was shelled to break a gap but the enemy was expecting the raid and retaliated with artillery and machine gun fire. The raiding party was pinned down in No Man’s Land and did not get through the wire.  The commanding officer’s reported:

“The dash of the men was excellent in every way and though the raid was a failure it was a gallant attempt. 

Casualties: Killed 7; Reported killed 2 (bodies not yet identified); Wounded 10 other ranks”.[13]

Private William Heaviside was killed in action 7 June 1917. Later research records that 7 Other Ranks were killed in action 7 June 1917 including Private W. Heaviside and another 3 men died of wounds 7 and 8 June 1917. [14]

Private W. Heaviside was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[15]


Private W. Heaviside is buried at grave reference II.Q.4 Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, Pas-de-Calais, France.  The cemetery was started in August 1915.  There are now 1,996 Commonwealth burials of the First World War. [16]


 A family headstone to Ralph and Hannah Heaviside in Evenwood Cemetery contains a commemoration to their son Private W. Headstone.  It is interesting to note that the family headstone informs that:

  • William died 8 June not 7 June
  • His age is given as 32 not 31 years, as the CWGC reports


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] CWGC

[3] 1891 census

[4] Army Form

[5] Army Form B5212

[6] Army Form B.178 Medical History

[7] Army Form B.2090a Field Service

[8] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service

[9] Military History Sheet

[10] “A Short History of the Sixth Division” edited by Major General T.O. Marden

[11] “A Short History of the Sixth Division” edited by Major General T.O. Marden Appendix III

[12] “A Short History of the Sixth Division” edited by Major General T.O. Marden Appendix I.

[13] Detail provided by the late Mike Heaviside, 2 Moor View, Cockfield

[14] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[15] Medal Roll card index

[16] CWGC




HEAVISIDE W.  Headstone