William Henry Pennington was born at 200 South Street, Moor, Sheffield, Yorkshire on 10th February 1893 the only son of Henry and Ada Pennington [née Brown]. A sister Minnie was born the following year. Both his parents were milliners by trade and were sufficiently affluent to be in a position to employ a small domestic staff.

After his education at Wellington College1, believed to be around the period 1908-11, William went up to Queens College, Oxford, although the surviving military records do not reflect the nature of his academic studies, and here he became a member of the Officers Training Corps [OTC].

Although due to graduate from Oxford in June 1915 he decided that his country’s need came first and so it was that on 11th December 1914 William signed his application papers for a temporary commission in the Regular Army, with a preference for the infantry branch of either a Yorkshire or Lancashire Regiment. The term would be for the duration of the war and he was passed fit for general service by the Army doctor.

He was subsequently commissioned as a Second-Lieutenant in 14th (Service) Battalion, The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire) Regiment on 3rd February 1915 at their home base at Falmouth, Cornwall. It was here, in November the previous year, the Battalion had been formed as one of Kitchener’s ‘New Army’ Battalions, or as they were sometimes disparagingly referred to as ‘Kitchener’s Mob’.

Just over three weeks later on 25th February 1915, whilst on active service in Falmouth, William was taken ill and moved immediately to the Alexandra Nursing Home at Madron, Cornwall. A few days later on Tuesday 2nd March 1915 he died of cerebro-spinal meningitis and thus was spared the horrors of the battlefields of the Western Front or Gallipoli. He was just 22 years of age and the first Old Wrekinian [OW] to die in the service of their King and Country.

Two days later on 4th March 1915 his regiment paid him a fulsome tribute by ensuring he was given a full military funeral. All of his brother officers were present, and his flag draped coffin was born by the senior NCO’s of the Battalion with the accompaniment of the Penzance Salvation Army Band through the streets. Seventeen officers of the 8th (Reserve) Battalion, The Northamptonshire Regiment, who were based nearby also attended as a mark of respect.

His parents took the decision that their son should be interred locally and so William lies buried in Penzance Cemetery, a short walk from the harbour.

The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire) Regiment is perpetuated today in the 1st Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment.

1. Contemporaries from his time at Wellington at the time of the 1911 census and who died in the War can be found in Appendix 1.

See also the Imperial War Museum permanent digital memorial to the ‘Lives of the First World War’ for WH Pennington.https://livesofthefirstworldwar.iwm.org.uk/lifestory/3470304