May 28th 1918

Although it was clear to his family and friends nearly six months ago that 2nd Lieut. Willie Wells-Cole (Lincs) had been killed, the official notification has only this last week been published in the newspapers:

This delay (since we published our notification of his death on December 19th) is explained by the fact that the authorities required official statements from the two eye witnesses, who are both prisoners of war. These have now been secured and Willie’s uncle (and next-of-kin) has finally received this confirmation on May 10th:

“In the view of the statements by these Non-Commissioned Officers the Council are now constrained to conclude that 2ndLieut. Wells-Cole was killed in action on 31stJuly, 1917. I am to express their sympathy with the relatives in their loss and to add that publication will be made in the official casualty list.”

This now enables Willie’s uncle to wind up his nephew’s affairs.

 

 

December 19th 1917

2nd Lieut. Willie Wells-Cole (Lincs)

Willie went missing in an attack on the first day of the 3rd battle at Ypres (July 31st) and, it has to be said, we did fear the worst even if we did not want to give up hope.

Word has now came through to the family from an officer, 2nd Lieut. Timpson, who is a Prisoner of War in Heidelberg, that Willie “was cut off and all his men captured. He was shot through the head and instantly killed. There are men here who were with him, though I was not.”

This is consistent with what another officer from his regiment has written: “…our company was protecting the flank of the battalion on our left. His was the leading platoon, and going a little beyond their objective… the whole lot were cut off.” 

We share with the family the belief that this is the end of the matter. Sadly, however, this is not the view of the authorities, who want signed statements from eye witnesses before providing next of kin with an official notification.

It may be many months yet before the family can wind up Willie’s affairs.

 

August 13th 1917

With the casualty lists growing to proportions not seen since the Somme battle last year, the news of the death of Alan Jenks is quickly followed by news that 2nd Lieut. William Wells-Cole (Lincolnshires) is missing.

Willie’s regiment were involved in the opening day’s attack on July 31st near Wytschaete. He and his company were not seen again after putting in their attack.

As a boy, Willie always refused to give in or to own himself beaten and it is difficult to imagine him having being taken prisoner.