Wearside Echoes: Always remembered - a century on

William Fisher holds a photograph of his grandad who has been missed off the list of official Sunderland 1st world war heroes.
William Fisher holds a photograph of his grandad who has been missed off the list of official Sunderland 1st world war heroes.
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A WEARSIDE soldier has finally been remembered for his bravery – almost 100 years after his death.

Railway labourer William Henry Fisher laid down his life on the battlefields of France in 1916.

But to the disappointment of his grandson, also called William Henry Fisher, his ultimate sacrifice remained unmarked in Sunderland – until now.

“There is a list of local fallen heroes from World War One in Sunderland Library but, when I took a look, I realised my grandfather had been missed off,” said Bill.

“I really thought it was a shame, as he was a Sunderland lad who gave his life in battle. I believe a sacrifice like that deserves to be remembered.”

William Fisher, the son of a cask and timber dealer, was born in Sunderland’s East End in 1890. It is believed his early years were spent in Carter Street before a move to Brougham Street.

The 1911 census shows William, by now almost 21, living with his parents in Northumberland Street. Both he and his father, also called William, were labourers for North Eastern Railway.

“When war broke out, my grandfather joined the West Yorkshire Regiment. For some reason he enlisted at Grantham in Lincolnshire, although I have absolutely no idea why,” said Bill.

“I’ve never been able to understand why he joined a Yorkshire regiment either, rather than something like the DLI.”

William signed up for the new 9th (Service) Battalion of the West Yorkshire’s, which was formed in York on August 25, 1914 and attached to the 32nd Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division.

After initial training in Yorkshire, the regiment was moved to Grantham before being sent to Frensham in Surrey for final training and orders.

The men sailed from Liverpool for Gallipoli on July 3, 1915, as part of the August Offensive, with the aim of capturing the peninsula from Turkish troops defending it under German direction.

The Gallipoli campaign ended in failure for the Allies. High numbers of casualties were recorded by the British.

“My grandfather was wounded at Gallipoli and sent home. While he was recovering, the rest of his regiment were sent out to Egypt, to defend the Suez Canal,” said Bill, who lives in Jarrow.

William rejoined his comrades a few months later and was sent to France to fight on the Western Front.

Arriving at Marseilles on July 1, 1916, his regiment travelled by train to the trenches, to fight at the Battle of the Somme – which lasted five long months.

“Sadly, my grandfather only survived for a few months. He is listed as having died on September 27, 1916, during the Battle of Thiepval Ridge,” said Bill.

The battle – the first large offensive mounted by the British Reserve Army of Lieutenant General Hubert Gough – was aimed at forcing the Germans to abandon the high ground of Thiepval Ridge.

Following three days of intense bombardment by the British, the infantry launched the first attack on enemy troops at 12.35pm on September 26. Within 24 hours, Private Fisher was dead.

“My grandfather was only 25 when he died,” said Bill. “No-one in the family even knew where he had died until we started looking into it a few years ago.

“A couple of years ago, my grandson laid a wreath on his grave at Thiepval Cemetery during a school trip, which was nice. He is remembered through the family name, my own name, too.”

Ex-Army man Bill, who also served with a Yorkshire regiment, was disappointed to find William Fisher was not officially remembered in his home town.

“It just felt like he had been forgotten when I found he had been missed off the list. Dozens of other lads who gave their lives are named but my grandfather just wasn’t there,” he said.

Pte Fisher’s name has now been added, after the Echo alerted Sunderland City Council to the omission.

Jane Hall, assistant head of culture and tourism, said: “It is in the nature of research that there can be errors and omissions in documents and records.

“Our files about service personnel from Sunderland who died in the First World War were compiled by volunteers from a CD database and donated in good faith to the Local Studies Centre.

“An original army database had recorded William Henry Fisher’s birthplace as Bishop Weymouth, so details of his death were not included in search results.

“We’re very grateful that this has been pointed out, and more than happy to make a correction. Mr William Henry Fisher has now been added to the roll call of Sunderland’s fallen.”

l William’s comrades went on to see in action at the Battle of Messines and the Third Battle of Ypres. On November 13, 1917, his battalion became the 9th (Yorkshire Hussars Yeomanry).