It has so far proved impossible to discover the details of William Bradley’s early life, and so this shortened biography begins in 1912 when Bradley matriculated to the university in the Michaelmas term, and becoming a member of Hatfield Hall. Bradley then studied for a B.A. until early 1915, when a note in the Praelector’s register of attendance states he that “left to take commission on 4th May 1915”.
Whilst at Durham, Bradley enjoyed sporting activities: he rowed for a Hatfield Hall winning crew in March 1913, and was captain of Hatfield Hall’s Rugby Football Club; he also served Secretary to the Rugby Club and to the Hatfield Hall Common Room, and represented the Hall on various committees.
Bradley was also a keen member of the university’s Officers’ Training Corps. His experience and training with the Senior Division of the Corps recommended him for officer rank when he joined the military, and his appointment as a second lieutenant was gazetted on 29 April 1915. He joined the 7th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry and after some weeks of training, and embarked for France on 10 July 1915 where he was destined to remain for the majority of the succeeding three years of war.
The Seventh Battalion of the D.L.I. was present on the Somme for most of these years, for most of the period as a ‘Pioneer’ regiment. The fierce trench warfare demanded a high level of maintenance of trenches and railways, as well as roads, and training was still important for situations when the pioneers were called upon to carry out work under fire, or indeed to take a position in the front lines. For instance, during the Battle of the Somme, (1 July- 18 November 1916), 7th D.L.I.’s battle roll included Flers-Courcelette, the Butte of Warlencourt, and Pioneer Alley, and it suffered heavy losses in these engagements. The torrential rain and gale-force winds created horrendous conditions in which enemy fire was not the only hazard to be contended with: it was reported by another D.L.I. battalion sharing the line at the Butte of Warlencourt that some men had drowned in their own trenches.
Second Lieutenant Bradley was gazetted again on 19 July 1916, when he was made a temporary Lieutenant. In July 1917 he served as a temporary captain while on secondment, until 15 August 1917. His temporary lieutenancy was made permanent in November 1917, and he was for a period in 1918 (at the time his M.C. was awarded in June) again a temporary captain and was then appointed to a staff captaincy on 20 November 1919. This gazette entry, in January 1920, also records that he had been awarded a Military Cross (June 1918) and an O.B.E. (1919) “[f]or valuable service rendered in connection with military operations in France”.
On a more personal note, amidst all the fighting Lieutenant Bradley may also have found time to meet and court his wife. Florence Lousada, a nurse of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, was deployed to France as part of a Voluntary Aid Detachment. There was one such establishment at Warlencourt and perhaps this is where the couple met. Their engagement was announced in The Times in January 1918. They married within two or three months at Warwick.
At the time of the Armistice, now Staff Captain Bradley of the Heavy Artillery XVIII Corps was appointed Civil Governor of Bonn on behalf of the Army of Occupation. Unfortunately, he died whilst serving in this post on 23 December 1919, presumably a victim of the influenza pandemic then raging. He was buried at Wandsworth (Earlsfield) Cemetery in London. His widow was then living at Little Beckhams, Chiddingfold, Godalming, Surrey.
Both Captain and Mrs Bradley were entitled to the Victory and the War Medals, and Captain Bradley to the 1915 Star. Captain William Bradley is commemorated on a memorial plaque in Hatfield College Chapel and in the Durham University’s Roll of Service (1920).
There are still many gaps in our short biography of William Bradley’s life. If you have further details about him we invite you to contact the university library’s Archives and Special Collections team.