William Ker

Initial lead courtesy of The Friends of the Glasgow Necropolis.
William Ker was born 14th October 1892 in Glasgow and was the third of Charles Ker and Florence Higginbotham's six children. He attended Rugby school before becoming an undergraduate at Oxford University's Balliol College. William was training to become a chartered accountant and represented Scotland at hockey against both England and Ireland.

At the outbreak of war William served with the Motor Boat Reserve before transferring to the RND during January 1915. He was appointed to the rank of Sub Lieutenant and attached to the Hawke Battalion before being posted to Gallipoli in May that year. In September William was posted to Alexandria for duty, returning to the Peninsula a month later. In November he took command of Hawke Battalion's "A" Company and was promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant, a rank he did not lose when he relinquished the command.

Following the evacuation of Gallipoli William was granted leave to the UK and rejoined his unit when it moved to France in May 1916. He would serve with the Division at Bully Grenay before he was killed in action during the Battle of the Ancre. Although the exact circumstances of William's death are not clear it would appear that he was a casualty of the German redoubt that decimated the Hawke Battalion. His name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial.

William had become a friend of Alan P. Herbert. When the Division returned to the Ancre in 1917 Alan composed the poem Beaucourt Revisited as a tribute to those that had fallen the previous November, William Ker is referred to in the penultimate verse.
I WANDERED up to Beaucourt; I took the river track,
And saw the lines we lived in before the Boche went back;
But Peace was now in Pottage, the front was far ahead,
The front had journeyed Eastward, and only left the dead.

And I thought, How long we lay there, and watched across the wire,
While the guns roared round the valley, and set the skies afire!
But now there are homes in HAMEL and tents in the Vale of Hell,
And a camp at Suicide Corner, where half a regiment fell.

The new troops follow after, and tread the land we won,
To them 'tis so much hill-side re-wrested from the Hun,
We only walk with reverence this sullen mile of mud ;
The shell-holes hold our history, and half of them our blood.
Here, at the head of Peche Street, 'twas death to show your face,
To me it seemed like magic to linger in the place ;
For me how many spirits hung round the Kentish Caves,
But the new men see no spirits - they only see the graves.

I found the half-dug ditches we fashioned for the fight,
We lost a score of men there - young James was killed that night;
I saw the star shells staring, I heard the bullets hail,
But the new troops pass unheeding - they never heard the tale.

I crossed the blood-red ribbon, that once was No-Man's Land,
I saw a misty daybreak and a creeping minute-hand;
And here the lads went over, and there was Harmsworth shot,
And here was William lying - but the new men know them not.

And I said, "There is still the river, and still the stiff, stark trees,
To treasure here our story, but there are only these";
But under the white wood crosses the dead men answered low,
"The new men know not BEAUCOURT, but we are here - we know."
Royal Naval Division .info William Ker
William Ker
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