13th Bn, Canadian Expeditionary Force – who died on 24 April 1915
William Oscar Mellowes was born in 1888 to John and Ann Mellowes. His mother Ann died in 1903. By 1911 the family was living on London Road, Oadby, on the corner of the Club Yard and comprised his older sister Nellie and younger brothers James and Harry. William and his father worked in the boot and shoe trade, Nellie and Harry were hosiery hands and James is listed as a domestic gardener. Sister Nellie though living in the family home was married to Thomas Brindley a regular soldier in the Leicestershire Regiment who was killed in 1916. William’s brothers, James and Harry both enlisted in the army and both survived the war.
London Road 1914.The Mellowes’ family home on the corner of Club Yard can be seen on the extreme right of this photograph
In 1911 William left Oadby, and emigrated to Canada. At the outbreak of war he enlisted in the 13th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force. Over 600,000 men enlisted in Canadian regiments between 1914 and 1918 75 per cent were British expatriates. Many French emigrants also returned to Europe to fight. A large number of the Battalions that formed the Canadian Expeditionary Force were affiliated to Scottish regiments and the 13th Battalion was known as the Royal Highlanders of Canada or the Canadian Black Watch.
13th Battalion Regimental cap badge
On the 24 April 1915 the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) was engaged in the Battle of St Julien, during the 2nd Battle of Ypres where the Germans were intent on “cutting off the Ypres Salient”. The Germans, for the first time, used poisonous gas.
Commanding Officer Major Buchanan described in the official war diary, how the battalion was surrounded and heavily shelled and gassed until they were forced to retire….
the 13th Battalion, under continual fire from the front and rear, retired and dug in…. the entire line from the Canadian boundary with the 28th Division…was now manned by the equivalent of eight battalions. These were to be attacked by at least three times their number of German Battalions…the 13th Battalion, whose position next to the apex was now vulnerable from both the front and rear, was ordered back to the Gravenstafel Ridge. The three companies on the left fell back in good order; but of the exposed company on the right, only a dozen men reached the ridge.
William Mellowes was not among them. His Cause of Casualty card states, ‘During the retirement after an attack at St Julien he was shot through the wrist and stomach by bullets and killed’.
13th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force War Diary for April 1915
William Mellowes is Remembered with Honour at Poelcapelle British Cemetery, Belgium. His grave reference is IA. F.9.
William Mellowes’ headstone
Poelcapelle British Cemetery, Belgium
William Mellowes is also remembered on the Memorial Tablet in Oadby Baptist Church