William Alfred Coom
Baptised 29 January 1888, St Austell Died of Wounds 21 April 1917
Private 1170 17 Battalion D Company Australian Imperial Force
Enlisted 2 February 1915 at Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia
Buried at Grevillers British Cemetery, France
William was the son of Alfred Coom, a gardener, and his wife Emily Luke. Emily was the daughter of William Luke, a tinker from Dulverton in Somerset, who had settled in the West Hill area of St Austell. The couple married in St Austell on 30 October 1885 and lived in St Austell, Roche and, by 1911, were living at Windsor Cottages off Berry Road in Newquay.
In the 1911 Census return Mrs Coom states that she had 10 children, 5 of whom were still living. I've not found all of their names, but as best I can tell, here are 7 of them:
Lillian Maud born 1886
Edith Gladys born 1889
Maud Mary born 1891
Thomas Henry 1892 - 1972
Gladys Mary born 1893
Reginald born 1894 (died as an infant)
Reginald born 1898
I can't find an emigration date for William, but he evidently left for Australia and found work as a station hand. He enlisted in early 1915 and was soon aboard SS Themistocles bound for Gallipoli. He soon ran foul of the army; he was caught sleeping at his post on 12 September and sentenced to Field Punishment No. 2. for a period of 28 days. Before the 28 days were up, he was in hospital suffering the effects of dysentery. A bout of enteric fever (typhoid) followed and William was sent to Graylingwell War Hospital, Chichester by the end of the October. He was back at a base in London for a couple of months, where he was docked pay for a deficiency of kit. In August 1916 he was in France.
17th Battalion waiting for troop trains in Italy 1915
By photographer not identified [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
William had several more hospital visits, for scabies, trench foot and boils. His final visit came after he was wounded in action on 19 April 1917. He had gunshot wounds in his foot and abdomen. He died on 21 April 1917. William was killed during the Battle of Arras, which lasted from 9 April to 16 May 1917. The Unit's War Diary does not make any mention of casualties on 19 April, though there are many reported a few days earlier on 15 April. What is certain, is that the Australians were heavily outnumbered but managed to inflict more casualties than they sustained.
Back in England, Alfred never knew his son's fate; he died a month before war was declared. Emily seems to have lived through another war, dying in 1947. William's brother Thomas found a job with the Post Office and worked in Newquay.
On a personal note, one of my great-uncles, Ernest, was also with the 17th Battlion (A company) and travelled out to Gallipoli on the same troop ship as William. Ernest and one of his brothers, Reginald, had moved to Australia to live with my great-grandmother's brother, who was the foreman of the goods yard at Sydney Railway Station. So, William may possibly have bumped into my great-uncle on board the ship, or my great-great uncle through his work as a station hand.