He was 29-years old when he fell in action on 18 November 1914. The CWG page says ‘Foster Son of Annie Targett, 21 Dan-Y-lan, Newtown, Pontypridd, Glamorganshire.’
William Thomas was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia in 1887. It has not been possible to discover when he came to the UK but by 1901 he was living in Saltash, Cornwall, just across the river from Plymouth with parents John, an engine fitter for the Royal Navy and Elizabeth who was born in Newfoundland. Ten years previously, parents were in Plymouth but there was no sign of their son who would have been about four; was he with his foster-mother Annie Targett ? She had a son of her own - Ernest Charles who was born in Bath, Somerset in 1890. His story is connected with all of this, so it seems appropriate to merge both of them into one narrative.
When William Thomas enlisted in the Army in 1906 he was living in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire and for census 1911 his parents were in Luton. His father was now a ‘Naval Pensioner - Engine Fitter’ and his mother kept a boarding-house. At this time William Thomas was at Lucknow Barracks in Tidworth. At the outbreak of war, he wrote a ‘Soldiers Will’ and on 18th November 1914 he was killed in action. This will had to be sent to the Principal Probate Registry because he had not actually named the beneficiary - saying “I leave all my effects to my Mother.” Did he mean his real mother or his foster mother who was recorded as being his next-of-kin? The law needed to know.
It took two years for it to go through due process of law. The District Registrar at Llandaff eventually granted administration to Annie Targett - “In the Will of the deceased described as his Mother”. Was it she who got the legal process started? Why did they not contact his actual birth mother - had William’s real parents returned to Newfoundland ? It is difficult to be sure that either of them had passed away. William was in the same battalion as Annie Targett’s own son and I had to shell out for copies of their wills in order to try and sort this out :
Private 9109 - Ernest Charles Targett’s CWG page says he was ‘Son of Mrs Annie Targett, 21 Danylan Road, Newtown, Pontypridd, Glamorgan’. Army records say he was born Bath, Somerset and for census 1901 that is where Ernest was living with his mother Annie and father William who is a Coachman/cab driver. By the next census they had moved to Pontypridd and that is where Ernest enlisted. He joined the Army before WW1 began - his service number dates to 1910.
Ernest Charles wrote a ‘Soldiers Will’ on 7th August 1914, two weeks before his battalion left the Channel Islands where they had been garrisoned since 1911. When war was declared, they were mobilised and landed in France, at Le Havre, on 21st August. Ernest Charles died exactly one month later and was buried in the British Cemetery at Vailly-sur-Aisne in France. He was 24-years old and left all his property and money to Miss L. Saunders of Foresters Arms, Minden Place, St.Heliers, Jersey. Was he hoping to return to her once the war was over … ...
William Thomas Sillick perished on 18th November 1914 and has his name on the Menin Gate at Ypres. He will be forever ‘Missing’. Ernest Charles Targett has his name in the magnificent Welsh Book of Remembrance; William Thomas seems not to have qualified for being included in this. Both are named on the War Memorial at Pontypridd; online it actually says ‘Ernest Charlie Targett’ - is that an accurate representation from the memorial itself or just a typo in the transcription?