LUMLEY William 1874 – 1920

WILLIAM LUMLEY 1874 – 1920

339293 (formerly 1692) Lance Sergeant William Lumley, 63rd Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps died at home, 16 December 1920, aged 46. He is buried in Crook cemetery.[1]

Family Details

William Lumley was born 1874,[2] the son of John and Agnes Lumley.  There were at least 6 children, all born at Crook:[3]

  • William born 1874
  • Edith bc. 1878
  • Arthur bc. 1883
  • Thomas bc.1885
  • Walter bc.1888
  • John bc.1890

In 1881, the family lived at Church Street, Crook where John senior was employed as a butcher.[4] William was the oldest of their children.  In 1891, aged 17, William was recorded as a farmer living at Mown Meadows in Crook.[5] 

In 1896 William Lumley married Edith Moralee.[6]  In 1901, William and Edith lived at Blackhill near Consett where William, now 27, worked as an, “Ashman for the steel works gas producers”.  In 1911, the family lived at Tow Law.  William worked as a miner (hewer).  In total, it was reported that there were 8 children: [7]

  • Cicely bc.1884, step daughter, at Crook
  • Hilda bc.1897 at Crook
  • Margaret Agnes bc.1899 at Crook
  • Edith Amelia bc.1902
  • Lavina Lily (Vina) bc.1908 at Ferryhill
  • John Moralee bc.1910 at Ferryhill
  • Gertrude (Gertie) bc.1911 at Weardale
  • Thomas W. bc.1914 at Auckland

By 1914, it is presumed that William, Edith and their family had settled in Witton Park.  It is known that Edith lived at Albion House and King Street, Witton Park.[8]  William Lumley died 16 December 1920, aged 46. [9] 

In 1923, William’s widow, Edith Lumley married William Matson.[10]

Military Details

26 September 1914:  William Lumley, aged about 40, enlisted into the Royal Army Medical Corps, joining the 63rd Field Ambulance at Liverpool, being given the service number 1692.  He was promoted to Corporal [11] and then acting Lance Sergeant.[12]  In 1917, his service number was renumbered to 339293.[13]

8 September 1915:  Private William Lumley entered France.[14]

28 February 1919: Acting Lance Sergeant W. Lumley was disembodied. [15]

Believed to be 1692 Private William Lumley

“The 63rd Field Ambulance was a war-child. It was born in Liverpool, nurtured in Blackpool, christened at Eastbourne, and received its baptism of fire at Loos. It was a healthy youngster at Loos, and quite an old campaigner on the Somme. Through the varying vicissitudes and fortunes of war, it played its part, along with the glorious 21st Division, until the final offensive and the Armistice”.[16]

26 September 1914, William Lumley enlisted into the 2nd West Lancashire Field Ambulance. [17]  It had its Headquarters at Harper Street in Liverpool.  Initial training was at Harper Street as the first line unit, renamed 98th Field Ambulance, moved south to meet up with its assigned division. The 2nd/2nd then moved to Blackpool where there was a large training depot for the RAMC. Here they instructed in PT and drilled into soldiers before starting on their medical training.

2/2 West Lancashire Field Ambulance at Blackpool:
William Lumley is believed to be front row, 4th from right

On the 4th August 1915, the unit moved to Beachy Head Camp at Eastbourne and on the 28th August, they moved to Witley to meet up with 21 Division. The unit was renamed 63rd (2nd/2nd West Lancashire) Field Ambulance and were joined by two of the St Helens Field Ambulances (64th (2nd/3rd West Lancs) and 65th (3rd/3rd West Lancs)). These three field ambulances remained with 21 Division throughout the war.

The 63rd Field Ambulance was established as part of the 1907 reforms and came into being on the 1st April 1908. There were three West Lancashire Field Ambulances, the 1st was based at Tramways Road in Aigburth, Liverpool. In 1914 they were to join the 29th Division and were the First Field Ambulance to land at Gallipoli in 1915. The 2nd was at Harper Street, also in Liverpool and the 3rd was at Croppers Hill in St Helens. At the outbreak of war in 1914, the field ambulances were training and under canvas at Calderstones Park in Liverpool.

On 24th August 1914, Lord Derby met with Lord Kitchener to discuss local men joining up and serving together. These would be the ‘Pals’ Battalions. In Liverpool recruiting started on Monday 31st August and by 10am they had enough recruits to fill the first Pals Battalion, within five days they had enough for a Brigade. When recruiting had stopped for the Pals, it left thousands of men looking to join up. Many of these men would turn to the local Territorial units. There wasn’t an expectation for them to see service overseas however on the same date as the Pals were recruiting the War Office had issued instructions for all units of the Territorial Force to form a reserve unit. The men who had agreed to serve overseas were separated from the rest. Those left as ‘home service only’ were formed into ‘second line’ units, which would be this reserve. They were joined by many new recruits from September 1914 onward. The West Lancashire Field Ambulances eventually created 6 extra lines of the original units.

Loos – 1915

On 8 September 1915, the 63rd landed in France, destination Loos. All three field ambulances were heavily involved with the treatment and recovery of the dead and wounded during the battle. The 63rd had seen its first action and came through in good order. It was the foundation for its future success.

Somme – 1916

After Loos, the 63rd moved to Armentieres and stayed until March 1916 when they went to the Somme sector and were involved on the opening days of the battle. Alec Westmore mentions that: [18]

“For three days, under a hot sun, the work went on, the [stretcher] bearers of all three Divisional Ambulances working almost continuously. It was afterwards learned that the casualties in the Division were some 5,000. At the advanced dressing stations and aid posts, doctors and orderlies in close, confines spaces, working at nightfall by lamp and candle, laboured on. The tents and dug-outs were like slaughter houses.”

On their second tour into the front lines on the Somme the weather had turned.

On 16th September Private J.H. Newton of 65th Field Ambulance noted in his diary that: [19]

I am so fed up that I am quite indifferent to danger, and I almost pray that I might be wounded so as to get out of this hell. The shell fire and the mud are simply beyond description, and it is a miracle that any escape being hit. Our shoulders are made raw by the chafing of stretcher handles, although we wear folded sandbags under our shoulder straps. Sweat runs in our eyes, until we can hardly see.”

A day later he writes:

I laid down at last, in a wet and muddy trench, not far from Delville Wood, our first rest for three days. I could not sleep, it was so cold, and the guns were blazing away all the time. When daylight came, we made a fire out of grenade boxes, and had our breakfast. The tea and fire cheered us up a bit, as well as warming our chilled bodies. Then, without any warning, shrapnel burst overhead and struck Corporal Brown over the heart, causing instant death.” [20]

Arras – 1917

The field ambulances of the 21st Division were engaged from the opening day of the Arras Offensive until they were relieved on 15th April. Casualties among the RAMC were comparatively light and the conditions weren’t as bad as their last actions on the Somme. When the men weren’t in the line they were engaged on other duties. These could range from filling in shell holes on the roads to manning the divisional baths and laundry to digging trenches and helping tunnellers. This was their so-called rest period.

Passchendaele – 1917

In September 1917, the three field ambulances of the Division went into the line at Passchendaele. It had been two years since the three units had seen their first action at Loos. During their 9 days in the line, they lost more men than they had in the preceding two years of front-line service. The 63rd were hit hard and practically 50% of their men were dead or wounded.

Alec Westmore noted that:

Bearers, with their loaded stretchers became bogged and had to be pulled out with stretcher slings. Stretchers were sunk to make some kind of footing, and over this precarious bridge, tripping over the bodies of men lying beneath the surface, the men staggered with their burdens. For 24 hours, wallowing in ooze and slime, the work continued. Here and there, by the side of dead men, one found begrimed rations which helped to give us fresh strength.”[21]

John H Newton described the situation as:

“It seemed hopeless to expect to get through such a storm of steel; even as I stood a jagged piece of shell struck me just above the knee. Four of us set off carrying the stretcher on our shoulders, and several times we had to lie down flat, and I had quite resigned myself to certain death. There is very little rest, for nine days, without a wash or a shave. When relieved we looked like tramps.” [22]

Out of the 36 bearers of Newton’s section that had gone into the line only 18 remained. He continues:

Now we are resting, shaved and washed, and feeling very little the worse. I can hardly realise that, only a few days ago, I only wished to lie down and die in the mud, and that I had envied the torn and mangled corpses that were scattered about.” [23]

For Alec Westmore and his chums, the misery wasn’t over:

The field ambulance relief not having arrived until late at night, it was necessary for the men to hang on until the following day. Cramped and weary, caked with mud, the survivors set out on a long tramp.  Thanks to some lorry drivers, a lift was obtained into “Pop” [Poperinghe] where a night was spent in a rest house. In the morning, breakfastless, the long march continued.” [24]

After a few days of rest, the Old Bill touches were removed and after ten days of rest they were on the move again. Most men prayed to be sent to the Somme sector but they weren’t so lucky. Reinforcements arrived to bring them up to strength and they were heading back to Wipers for a second time. The mental strain must have been tremendous knowing that they were going back to hell.  Newton notes:

We hadn’t even got to the ADS before Scragg was killed and Lawson, Phillips, Williams and Wright were wounded near Hooge.” [25]

Newton was wounded a few days later but not bad enough to be sent to Blighty.

Epehy – 1918

On the 21st March the German Army started its Spring Offensive, its aim was to knock the Allies out of the war before the United States could bring its overwhelming resources to bear against them. For the 63rd Field Ambulance, the casualties were again heavy. It was estimated that at least 30 men had become casualties on the first day not including those captured at Epehy. For eleven days and nights the 63rd had been constantly marching. Due to the confusing nature of the retreat, many of the men would not make it back to the 63rd for many weeks. For the next few months, the 21st Division would be refitting and reinforcing. It was to be several months before the 63rd would be back in the front line.

The Final Advance – 1918

The three field ambulances of the 21st Division were in direct support from August through the final advance to victory and the Armistice in November. Although there was going to be a ceasefire, men were still dying. Major Irvine died the day before the armistice was brought in to effect and the beloved Sergeant Major Isaac, who had landed in France with the 63rd died on 22nd November. He had never missed a day’s duty whilst in France.


There were many acts of gallantry performed by the men of the field ambulances. I mention one man in particular, 1697 (339298) Staff Sergeant Wilfred Brooke. Wilfred enlisted on the same day as William and they both served with the 63rd throughout the war. Wilfred died of Tuberculosis in July 1920 and buried in an unmarked grave for 95 years. During his time on the western front, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bar, the Military Medal, Mentioned in Despatches and the Belgian Croix de Guerre.

It is believed that William Lumley was not the only man from Crook to serve with this unit.  62534 Private William Parkin RAMC entered France 9 September 1915 and was discharged 10 June 1919.[26]  He returned to Crook employed as a, master baker.”[27]

Medals and Awards

Sergeant William Lumley was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the Victory and British War medals.[28]


Death and Burial                                                                                                   

William Lumley died 16 December 1920 and the cause of death was attributed to:

“Eight months ago he had a stroke, it was thought to the effect of trench fever and from which he never recovered.”[29]

William Lumley was buried at Crook cemetery in a family plot.[30]

Mrs. Edith Lumley applied for a pension but was unsuccessful, the reason being:

“Disease contracted after discharge”.[31]


William Lumley’s name was not included on the original memorial tablet located in the Witton Park and District Memorial Institute and Red Triangle Club (locally known as the Witton Park Hut).  The tablet was unveiled Tuesday 25 October 1921 by Princess Marie Louise and Miss Lavina Lumley presented her with a bouquet of flowers.  Lavina was the daughter of William, described in a press report as, “the daughter of a deceased soldier”.[32]  Clearly, the omission of his name was an oversight and the organising committee perhaps tried to make amends by  giving 14 years old Lavina, a part to play in the official proceedings, by the honour of presenting the royal guest with the bouquet.  William Lumley is commemorated on the St. Paul’s church Roll of Honour and the new tablet in the Witton Park Memorial Garden.   

William Lumley’s Headstone, Crook Cemetery
The new tablet in the Witton Park Memorial Garden


Thanks to Bob Dixon for the RAMC research, Dale Daniel for the Witton Park connections and Elizabeth Mason for the family details.


William was born in 1874 at Crook, the son of John and Agnes Lumley.  In 1896, William married Edith Moralee and they had 8 children.  They lived at Blackhill near Consett, Tow Law and Ferryhill before moving to Witton Park.  In September 1914, aged 40, William Lumley volunteered and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, 63rd Field Ambulance at Liverpool.  His unit arrived in France in September 1915 and he served on the Western Front for the duration of the war. Local press reports of his death outline his rise through the ranks and that he was mentioned in despatches. Lance Sergeant Lumley was disembodied in February 1919 and returned to Witton Park where he died 16 December 1920.  His death was attributed to a stroke, thought to have been brought on after suffering from trench fever during the conflict.  William Lumley is buried in a family plot in Crook cemetery. 


[1] Find a Grave Memorial ID 234194543

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.323 Auckland Q1

[3] 1881, 1901 and 1911 census

[4] 1881 census

[5] 1891 census

[6] England and Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.255 Auckland Q1

[7] 1901 & 1911 census, England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.614 Weardale 1911 Q3 & Vol.10a p.561 Auckland 1914 Q2

[8] Pension Record card index and press article

[9] England & Wales Death Index 1916-2007 Vol.10a p.260 Auckland 1920 Q4 and Pension Record card index

[10] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.353 Auckland 1923 Q1

[11] Medal Roll card index

[12] Roll of Individuals entitled to the Victory and British War medals dated 1 March 1920

[13] Pension Record card index

[14] Medal Roll card index

[15] Medal Roll card index

[16] “Story of the 63rd Field Ambulance (2/2 West Lancashire F.A. T.F.) B.E.F. France 1914 – 1919” 1927 Alec Westmore p.1

[17] Information from Bob Dixon – 1697 Pte Wilfred Brooke and 1668 John Deakin enlisted 26 September 1914.  William Lumley’s number lies in between theirs therefore it is presumed that he enlisted on the same day.

[18] Westmore p.

[19] “A Stretcher Bearers Diary” 1931 Newton J.H. p.

[20] Newton p.

[21] Westmore p.

[22] Newton p.

[23]  Newton p.

[24] Westmore p.

[25] Newton p.

[26] Medal Roll card index

[27] 1939 England & Wales Register

[28] Medal Roll card index, Roll of Individuals entitled to the Victory and British War medals dated 1 March 1920

[29] Press report

[30] Press report and Find a Grave Memorial ID 234194543

[31] Pension Claim card index note dated 20 April 1921

[32] Evening Despatch 26 October 1921