1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

William Flack

Contributed by: Jenny Flack, on 2008-11-06

No portrait available
First Name William
Surname Flack
Year of Birth 1893
Year of Death 1915
Regiment Royal Field Artillery
Place of Wartime Residence Royston, Hertfordshire

William's Story


This is Williams story - the uncle I never knew, as my father was only four years old when his brother was killed in the Great War.

He was just an ordinary person from a working class family, living in the Hertfordshire countryside with his five brothers and sisters and working as a labourer on a nearby farm. When war broke out in August 1914 he was almost 21 years old and volunteered for action immediately. He joined the Royal Garrison Artillery and was sent to Flanders.

Like many others in the Great War, promotion came quickly due to the huge numbers of casualties and he was soon a Corporal, in charge of a gun and a detachment of men. In the great offensive at Hooge near Ypres in November 1915, his bravery in action earned him promotion to an Officer. Sadly, his life as a Second Lieutenant was very short as only a week after his promotion and even before the documents were drawn up confirming his new appointment, he was shot in the head by an enemy sniper.

Mortally wounded, he was being transported back to England but died on the dockside at Boulogne on December 19th 1915. Together with hundreds of others like him, he was buried in the military section of the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery. Fittingly, this beautifully-maintained cemetery lies up on the hill beyond the Basilica, overlooking the Channel and facing towards England. His bravery at Hooge was later further recognised in the posthumous award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

As with many of her generation, my grandmother never really got over the death of her beloved eldest son and wore mourning until her own death in 1951. A portrait of William painted by a neighbour from a family snapshot with the appropriate uniform added, always had pride of place in her front room together with the medal and a copper plaque awarded by the British Government to the family of every soldier lost in the Great War.

After the death of my father in 1987, Williams precious items came to me. While I treasured them, I was worried that they would eventually be lost and his great sacrifice forgotten. Then in 1997 on a day trip to Ypres, I had the moving experience of visiting the Menin Gate for the first time. Seeing the thousands of names of the missing inscribed there, many of whom were from Williams regiment, I suddenly realised that his items belonged there, so close to where the events took place over 90 years ago now. Looking at the tranquil countryside of Flanders today it is hard to imagine the great loss of life just to gain a yard or two of precious land.

In September 1998, I returned to Ypres and offered the items to the newly-opened museum In Flanders Field. The people there were delighted and gave me the assurance that William would become one of their personal stories section. My friend and I were given a guided tour of what is a very thought-provoking exhibition, beautifully presented,

William is special to me because he was my uncle but he is only typical of thousands of young men who selflessly gave everything to give us a better world. I am glad that his belongings are now in a place where they will be forever appreciated. His actual life may have been short, but I like to think that through the museum, he will live on in the minds of future generations as a real person. He was a tiny but precious piece in the great mosaic of victory, and it is only right that he and people like him should never be forgotten.

Jenny Flack

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