POUNDER William 1896 – 1916


24504 Private William Pounder, 12th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 10 July 1916, aged 20.  He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France[1] and the Witton Park war memorials.

Family Details

William Pounder was born 1896, in Darlington,[2] the son of Robert and Mary Pounder.  There were at least 6 children:[3]

  • Hannah bc.1890 at probably Kirk Merrington, County Durham
  • Mary Ann bc.1892
  • Margaret bc.1893 
  • William (Willie) born 1896 at Darlington
  • Robert bc.1904 at Woodside, near Witton Park
  • Joseph bc.1907 at Witton Park

In 1901, Robert and Mary Pounder lived at Craike Scar, in the Parish of Lynesack and Softley, County Durham where Robert worked as a coal miner.[4]  Craike Scar was an isolated colliery and coke works, east of Woodland in southwest Durham on the western edge of the coalfield.  There was a settlement called, “The Huts” adjacent to the colliery.  By 1911, the family lived at John Street, Witton Park where John now worked as a farm labourer and William, “at the pit”. [5]

Military Details [6]

The service details of William Pounder have not been researched.  It is known that he enlisted at Barnard Castle, County Durham into the Durham Light Infantry, posted to the 12th Battalion and allocated the service number 24504.[7]

DLI Cap Badge

He joined the 12th (Service) Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry which had been formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of K3, Kitchener’s New Army.  The battalion was under the orders of 68th Brigade, 23rd Division. In 1916, the following units comprised the 68th Brigade:

  • 10th (Service) Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 11th (Service) Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 12th (Service) Bn., Durham Light Infantry
  • 68th Machine Gun Company
  • 68th Trench Mortar Battery

Between 21 and 26 August 1915, the 23rd Division landed in Boulogne, France and thereafter served on the Western Front until late 1917 when it moved to Italy.   Private W. Pounder did not enter France until after 31 December 1915.[8] 

25 February 1916: 12/DLI left the area for the mining district around Auchel and reached billets at Estree Cauchie on 2 March.  The division took over the line around the colliery towns near Lens.

17 March: 12/DLI moved into support positions at Cite Calonne.

10 April: 12/DLI occupied the front line when a hoax attack was launched on German positions at Cite des Champs Grenelles, Cite de Rollencourt and Lievin.  Casualties were light.  German casualties were unknown.  After which, the battalion moved to Matringhem for training then back to the trenches.

25 May: Posted to the Souchez sector.

24 June: 12/DLI entrained for the Somme area.[9]

The Battle of the Somme 1 July – 18 November 1916 [10]

The Battle of the Somme was viewed as a breakthrough battle, as a means of getting through the formidable German trench lines and into a war of movement and decision.  Political considerations and the demands of the French High Command influenced the timing of the battle.  They demanded British diversionary action to occupy the German Army to relieve the hard pressed French troops at Verdun, to the south. 

General Sir Douglas Haig, appointed Commander-in-Chief in December 1915, was responsible for the overall conduct of British Army operations in France and Belgium.  This action was to be the British Army’s first major offensive on the Western Front in 1916 and it was entrusted to General Rawlinson’s Fourth Army to deliver the resounding victory.  The British Army included thousands of citizen volunteers, keen to take part in what was expected to be a great victory.

The main line of assault ran nearly 14 miles from Maricourt in the south to Serre to the north, with a diversionary attack at Gommecourt 2 miles further to the north.  The first objective was to establish a new advanced line on the Montauban to Pozieres Ridge.   

The first day, 1 July, was preceded by a week-long artillery bombardment of the German positions.  Just prior to zero-hour, the storm of British shells increased and merged with huge mine explosions to herald the infantry attack – at 7.30am on a clear midsummer’s morning the British Infantry emerged from their trenches and advanced in extended lines at a slow steady pace over the grassy expanse of a No Man’s Land.  They were met with a hail of machine gun fire and rifle fire from the surviving German defenders.  Accurate German artillery barrages smashed into the infantry in No Man’s Land and the crowded assembly trenches – the British suffered enormous casualties:

  • Officers killed 993
  • Other Ranks killed: 18,247
  • Total Killed: 19,240
  • Total casualties (killed, wounded and missing): 57,470

In popular imagination, the “Battle of the Somme” has become a byword for military disaster.  In the calamitous opening 24 hours the British Army suffered its highest number of casualties in a single day.  The loss of great numbers of men from the same towns and villages had a profound impact on those at home. The first day was an abject failure and the following weeks and months of conflict assumed the nature of wearing-down warfare, a war of attrition, by the end of which both the attackers and defenders were totally exhausted.     

The Battle of the Somme can be broken down into 12 offensive operations:

  • Albert: 1 – 13 July
  • Bazantin Ridge: 14 – 17 July
  • Delville Wood: 15 July – 13 September
  • Pozieres Ridge: 15 July – 3 September
  • Guillemont: 23 July – 3 September
  • Ginchy: 9 September
  • Flers-Courcelette: 15 – 22 September
  • Morval: 25 – 28 September
  • Thiepval: 25 – 28 September
  • Le Transloy: 1 – 18 October
  • Ancre Heights: 1 October – 11 November
  • Ancre: 13 – 18 November

Adverse weather conditions i.e. the autumn rains and early winter sleet and snow turned the battlefield into morass of mud.  Such intolerable physical conditions helped to bring to an end Allied offensive operations after four and a half months of slaughter.  The fighting brought no significant breakthrough.  Territorial gain was a strip of land approximately 20 miles wide by 6 miles deep, at enormous cost. British and Commonwealth forces were calculated to have 419,654 casualties (dead, wounded and missing) of which some 131,000 were dead.  French casualties amounted to 204,253.  German casualties were estimated between 450,000 to 600,000. In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

12/DLI in action during the Battle of Albert 1 – 13 July 1916

The 23rd Division was involved at various times with 68 Brigade and 12/DLI effecting offensive operations.  During the night of 6 July, 68th Brigade relieved 69th Brigade and 12/DLI occupied Triangle Trench unopposed.[11] On the 7th, the Division’s objective was Contalmaison and 68 Brigade’s objective was Bailiff Wood.  12/DLI was required to occupy a trench on higher ground for 11/NF to achieve its mission.[12] On the 9th, 12/DLI entered Bailiff Wood but came under fire from British artillery and could not stay.  At 8.15pm, 2 companies of 12/DLI succeeded in capturing Bailiff Wood and trenches either side.[13] 23 Division was relieved on the 11th.[14] Further details are provided:

6 July: 12/DLI relieved 8/West Yorkshire Regiment in the line.  Losses to German shrapnel were slight, 3 men killed, 1 officer and 10 men wounded.  Next day, 11/Northumberland Fusiliers took over the position and 12/DLI supported an attack on the German line.  B and D Companies advanced in the face of heavy rifle and machine gun fire, gaining a trench.  C Company joined them in the afternoon.  Trenches were knee deep in mud, it having rained heavily all day. 

8 July: The battalion was withdrawn and returned to Becourt Wood but were called upon the next day to lead a fresh attack on Bailiff Wood and the trench beyond.  The first attempt failed but the next attack, delivered with rifle and bombs, met with better fortune.  Ground was won at a cost of 235 men killed, wounded or missing.  On the afternoon of the 10th, the battalion was withdrawn to Albert.[15]  Later research records that between 6 and 12 July, 35 Other Ranks were killed in action or died of wounds including Private W. Pounder and 5 others on the 10th.[16]

Awards and Medals

Private W. Pounder was awarded the Victory and British War medals.

Medal Roll Card Index


William Pounder’s father received his effects in 1916 and his mother in 1918.[17]  Mary received his pension.[18]


24504 Private William Pounder, 12th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 10 July 1916, aged 20.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme along with 72,000 other officers and men.[19]

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme


Private 24504     William Pounder, 12th Bn. Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 10 July 1916 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. 

Little is known of this soldier other than he was born in Darlington and was baptised at St. Paul’s on March 22nd 1896.  In 1901, the family lived at Craike Scar in the Lynesack and Softley Parish and in 1911, the family was living at 5 John Street, Witton Park where the father Robert was a farm labourer and William worked in the pit.

William Pounder enlisted at Barnard Castle into the Durham Light Infantry, 12th Battalion and left for France in 1916.  The date of William’s death coincides with the Somme offensive of July 1916 and the majority of those named on the Thiepval Memorial were casualties of that slaughter. 


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England, Selected Births and Christenings 1538-1975 film no.1894194 Baptism 22 March 1896, St. Paul’s Darlington 

[3] 1901 & 1911 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] Details are from a variety of sources, namely “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18” 1920 Capt. Wilfred Miles; “With Bayonets Fixed: The 12th & 13th Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry in the Great War”2013 John Sheen and “The Somme: The day by day account”1993 Chris McCarthy

[7] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[8] Medal Roll card index Note: He was not awarded the 1914-15 Star therefore he did not enter an overseas theatre of war before 31 December 1915.

[9] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-1918: The Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry” 1920 Captain Wilfred Miles p.29-31

[10] Various sources – “The Somme” P. Hart,  www.cwgc/somme, “The Somme: the day by day account” C. McCarthy

[11] McCarthy p.38

[12] McCarthy p.40

[13] McCarthy p.43

[14] McCarthy p.45

[15] Miles p.54-57

[16] ODGW & SDGW

[17] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929 Record No.322752

[18] Pension Claimant card index

[19] CWGC