William John Gifford

Date of birth: 9th February 1899
Place of birth: Shirley, Southampton
Regiment: Machine Gun Corps
Battalion: 50th Company
Rank / Service No: Private, 133679
Died: 27th May 1918, aged 19 years
Commemorated: Soissons Memorial, France


William was the third of 7 known siblings born to John and Ann Gifford (nee Parker), who married in Shirley in 1895.

It is not known when either parent died, but Ann was born in Dorset in 1875 and John in Clapton in 1876.


The couple had a total of 10 children, but 3 are unaccounted for.


Most unfortunately, records show Ann and all her children (bar Nellie) in a St. Mary’s Workhouse at the 1911 Census.



Ellen Mary (Nellie)   b. 1895 Shirley   d. 1975 Southampton

Elizabeth Ann (Annie)   b. 1897 Shirley   d. ??

William John

Edwin George   b. 1900 Shirley   d. 1940 Southampton

Alice Louise   b. 1901 Shirley   d. 1917 Southampton

Elsie M.   b. 1902 Shirley   d. 1932 Southampton

Charles   b. 1906 Shirley   d. ??


The 50th Machine Gun Company joined the 17th (Northern) Division on 12 February 1916.

In the spring of 1916, they were in action at the Bluff, near Ypres, and then moved south to the Somme, seeing action during the Battle of Albert (in which the division captured Fricourt) and the Battle of Delville Wood.

In 1917, the Company moved to Arras and saw action in the First and Second Battles of the Scarpe and the capture of Roeux.

In late summer 1917, the company moved to Flanders with the same Division and fought in the First and Second Battles of Passchendaele.

On 24 February 1918, they joined with other Machine Gun Companies of the Division to form the 17th Machine Gun Battalion.


The front around Soissons was mostly held by French forces but the city always remained in range of German artillery.

At the end of April 1918, 5 Divisions of Commonwealth forces (IX Corps) were posted to the French 6th Army in the Soissons sector to rest and refit, following the German offensives on the Somme and Lys.

At the end of May, IX Corps found themselves facing an overwhelming German attack which, despite fierce opposition, pushed the Allied forces back across the Aisne to the Marne.


IX Corps suffered 15,000 fatal casualties, including William.


The Memorial commemorates almost 4,000 men of UK forces who died during the Battles of the Aisne and the Marne in 1918 and have no known grave.



Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published: 28th July 2016


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