William Henry Locket was born on 1 January 1890 in New Whittington, near Chesterfield in Derbyshire, a third child to Henry and Elizabeth Smith Lockett. Henry Lockett was a railway guard, living with his wife and two older daughters, Elizabeth Scott Lockett and Emily Martha Locket, in 14 Wellington Street.
William Lockett was educated first in the New Whittington Council Schools, proceeding then on a County Council Minor Scholarship to Chesterfield Grammar School. After a short stint as an assistant master at nearby Clowne he matriculated at Durham University in Michaelmas 1911, entering Hatfield College as an Honours student studying for a B.A. in litteris antiquis (Mathematics), which he was awarded in Easter 1914.
Upon graduation he took a teaching post at Weston-super-Mare, but then quickly enlisted into the army after the outbreak of hostilities. As a former member of the Officers’ Training Corps at Durham - attending three annual camps - he was granted a temporary commission as a Second Lieutenant, gazetted on 16 November 1914; his commission was confirmed on 11 May 1915. He served with the 16th Reserve Battalion, Durham Light Infantry before being posted to France on 25 July 1916 as a member of the 12th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. He joined them at Contalmaison on 28 July 1916, along with six other officers.
"CONTALMAISON 28.7.1916. Germans shelled village about 8.30-10.30 am at odd times during the day. 11th West Yorks [West Yorkshire Regiment] relieved the Battalion about 5.30 pm and the Battalion moved to Becourt Wood end of Sausage Valley. Heavy shelling on both sides. A number of shells fell into and close to camping ground between 11 and midnight. 7 new officers arrived and report to the Battalion in Sausage Valley. Viz. Captain G. A. Nichols, 2nd Lieutenants L.J. Powel-Smith, A.B. Wallis, C. Vaux, W.H. Lockett, C. Armstrong, J. Bollom."
Intelligence Report, 28 July 1916. War Diary of 12th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (Ref: WO 95/2182/1)
August was a quiet month for the 12th Battalion and was spent predominantly in training and furnishing working parties, according to these Battalion Intelligence Reports in the unit’s war diary. In September the battalion moved up between The Dingle and Contalmaison, and although under fire this was, by their standards, a period of low casualties. On 21 September Second Lieutenant C. Armstrong, who had arrived with William Henry Lockett, was killed. Then on 23/24 September Second Lieutenant Bollom was killed during an attack on T26 Avenue. In October the battalion began a tour in Crescent Alley, a much more dangerous sector. It was here that Second Lieutenant William Henry Lockett was killed.
He wrote his last letter home on 30 September, and which was quoted in a local newspaper: "I want you to remember that whatever happens, that our ancestors also fought and died for the privileges we have all enjoyed during the prolonged years of peace, and it is quite up to us to do the same. We know it isn't pleasant to contemplate these happenings, but let us hope it is all for the best". In the same letter he reported that he had been given a Company command due to both the commanding officer and the next in command having been taken out of action, the one wounded and the other suffering from shell shock.
At the time of his death William was serving with the 12th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, which on 7 October had attacked the front line trenches near Le Sars. A and C companies successfully captured The Tangle and the sunken Eaucourt l'Abbaye Road, whilst B company moved through and gained ground at Le Sars. The Regimental Intelligence Report outlines the day’s events.
"CRESCENT ALLEY 6.10.16. Battalion CRESCENT ALLEY – Relieved the 11th NF [Northumberland Fusiliers] in O G 1 & 2 about 8 pm Evening Quiet.
O G 1 & 2 7.10.1916. Battalion in O G 1 & 2 At 1-45pm the Battalion attacked the SUNKEN ROAD. SE of LE SARS. At 1.0pm Second Lieutenant W. H. Lockett O/C C Company took his Company forward and occupied the TANGLE. At 1.45 pm A Company and C Company attacked with D & B Companies in Support. Owing to the heavy Machine Gun fire, A Company were held up. Meanwhile, C Company assisted with 2 platoons of D Company under 2/Lt A. T. Hunt reached SUNKEN ROAD. They were then supported by the remaining 2 platoons of D Company under 2/Lt W. L. Hughes who consolidated the position and succeeded in inflicting severe casualties on the enemy who were attempting to escape across the road on the right. B Company (2/Lt Harris) then came up and advanced about 450 yards beyond SUNKEN ROAD & consolidated. They linked up with SUNKEN ROAD by a chain of Strong Points. Our new positions were heavily shelled by the enemy throughout the night. Casualties: Officers; Killed, 2/Lt W. H. Lockett; wounded, 2/Lt W. H. Hughes, A. T. Hunt, A. E. Hales, Wallace, Hugall, Leggatt; missing, 2/Lt Telfer. NCO’s and men, killed 31, wounded 86. We took 70 prisoners.
BECOURT WOODS 8.10.1916. Heavily shelled. Relieved by 8/10th Gordons [Gordon Highlanders] Battalion moved to BECOURT WOODS.
9.10.1916. Rested at BECOURT WOODS."
Intelligence Report, 6-7 October 1916. War Diary of 12th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (Ref: WO 95/2182/1).
William Henry Lockett was twenty-six years old at his death, and his sacrifice is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, and on war memorials at St Barnabus Church, New Whittington, Chesterfield, and at Chesterfield Grammar School, and on a memorial plaque at Hatfield College.