William Edward Besant

Date of birth: 1874
Place of birth: Weymouth
Service No.: 4867
Rank: Sergeant
Regiment / Division: Hampshire
Battalion: 12th  battalion
Died:  17 January 1916, aged 42 years
Buried: Salonika (Lembet Road) Military Cemetery, Greece

Life before the War

William was the second of 7 siblings born to Charles Thomas and Julia Jane Besant (nee Martin), who were married in Weymouth in 1872. There must be some conjecture as to the father of the 8th child, Ella Violet, who was born in 1890. It appears fact that Charles died in 1886.  Both Charles and Julia were born in Weymouth, in 1852 and 1851 respectively. Julia died in Winchester in 1940.


  1. Louisa Emma Maria Jane b. 12.1.1873 Ontario d. 1939 Southampton
  2. William Edward
  3. Helen Mary A. b. 1876 Falmouth d. 1965 Gosport Married Thomas H. Mansbridge in Southampton in 1919.
  4. Ethel DAISY b. 1880 Southampton d. 1930 Southampton
  5. Elsie Maud K. b. 1884 Southampton d. 1958 Weymouth Married Henry J. Jeffery in Southampton in 1914.
  6. George Martin b. 1885 Southampton d. 1942 Southampton
  7. Charles Thomas Victor b. 1887 Southampton d. 1969 Worthing Married Edith F. Marshall in Southampton in 1919. Married Johanna Chaffe in Willesden in 1948.
  8. Ella Violet b. 1890 Southampton d. 1958 Durham Married James J. Orr in West Ham in 1936. Married Percival Hope in Liverpool in 1948.

William married Sarah Ann Ayles in Southampton in 1905. Sarah was born in Boscombe in 1876 and she passed away in Southampton in 1926.

  1. They had 4 sons before William’s demise and lived at 113 Manor Farm Road, Bitterne Park.
    Charles b. 1906 Southampton d. 1975 Southampton
  2. Reginald Edward S. b. 1908 Southampton d. 8.3.1981 Fareham Married Violet Edna Ford in Portsmouth in 1936.
  3. Hector Louis b. 1910 Southampton d. 1991 Southampton Married Gwladys M. Knight in Kent in 1943.
  4. Donald William b. 1914 Southampton d. ?? (still alive in 1980) Married Evelyn F. Kennell in Southampton in 1939. Donald, Evelyn & a son left for Australia from Southampton in August 1950; they lived in NSW and divorced in 1961.

War Service

The 12th Battalion was formed in Winchester in October 1914. The troops arrived in France on 26 September 1915 as part of the 26th Division. They took no part in any fighting before the 874 men of the battalion embarked on SS Canada at Marseilles in mid November 1915, bound for Salonika.

They arrived on 25 November and immediately began building defences and training in the hills. The battalion was at Lembet camp for most of December, before being moved forward to take over Longaza village.

William may have died of illness rather than wounds, because there were only very few skirmishes early in the campaign. It was during May 1916 that the Germans and Bulgarians made their presence known.

William’s headstone reads: “Always in the memory of his loving wife, mother and family.”

Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published: 10/08/15

If you have any more information about the above named person, or any other name listed on this website or Southampton’s Cenotaph, please email Southampton.cenotaph@hotmail.co.uk, or telephone 023 8086 9599 and we will contact you.

Many thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s