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William Caddick Great War veteran and Wolves captain

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: February 16, 2014

William Caddick, Wolves captain and WWI veteran

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WOLVES fans who know their club's history will remember the name William Caddick – the centre-half who captained the team to the Third Division North title in 1923-24. But before his professional career William served as a Grenadier Guard in the First World War.

William's son Graham Caddick has supplied this story, revealing an interesting puzzle about his father's wartime service.

Graham writes, "When I was growing up in the 1930s I was often told of my father's footballing career with the Wolves and being captain, and, very naturally, this made me very proud of him but I didn't really see him as other than a popular soccer player.

"However, I did know that he was very active as local secretary of the British Legion but his having been a soldier in the First World War barely registered in my mind, although he often took me to British Legion functions and introduced me to people he knew who had been badly injured in that war.

"Time went by and he was always a keen member of the Grenadier Guards Association in later life and because of this I sometimes met some of his ex-Grenadier friends and I remember very well his great pride at having been a 'Grenadier' but also his being especially proud of being in the king's own special 'Household Battalion'.

"Nevertheless, I never thought too deeply about how things had been for him in the army until I had a shock and surprise after his funeral.

"My father died on the 13 June, 1981, aged 84 and after his funeral two ex-Grenadier Guardsman attending asked to see his medals and upon their doing so they remarked that my father had not been in the Grenadier Guards at all, as the medals signified that he had been a 'trooper', i.e., a cavalryman. This suggestion amazed me as my father had always been intensely proud of being a Grenadier as well as having been in the Household Battalion and so I decided that this needed to be looked into.

"After a prolonged search and many enquiries I was able to ascertain, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that he had indeed been in both the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards and the very special Household Battalion.

"Having enlisted in the Grenadier Guards with the service number 30557 he was appointed to Household Battalion, which had been formed on the 1 September, 1916, at the express command of the king, being comprised of various personnel from cavalry regiments and guards regiments, and some others, essentially because of the then need for more infantry to compensate for heavy losses that were being suffered.

"Initially, he was probably trained at Windsor and after approximately five months was sent to France where the Household Battalion was in the front line near the town of Roeux on the La Scarpe River Canal in the vicinity of Fampoux and Arras.

"The Battalion was frequently involved in heavy fighting and suffered heavy casualties and in September 1917 it was moved to the front in Belgium in the vicinity of Vimy, Passchendaele and Poelcappelle. There was very heavy fighting at this time and the battalion suffered approximately 400 casualties, of whom 148 died. This indicated a casualty rate of over 40% of those involved. It was written about this fighting '...Perhaps no normal infantryman who had been through a 1917 Passchendaele attack would ever be quite the same again... the ultimate degradation of fighting and man's inhumanity to man.'

"Later the Battalion was involved in the Battle of Cambrai and was then moved to south-east of Arras.

"The troops did not spend their whole time in the front line, of course, and were usually rotated with men from other battalions of other regiments and the time spent in the front line was usually about five days after which they would move to the reserve trenches or be rested for a few days when they could clean-up and get fresh clothes. Even so, they were all usually infested with lice. In the front line food supplies were often very limited and spasmodic, with drinking water being very short, and the trenches were often very wet and muddy with little chance of lying down to sleep and with no chance of changing clothes.

"My father used to joke about trying to make tea in petrol cans, and even rice puddings the same way, but he rarely spoke about the bad times although he did once say that advancing across a canal was difficult! And when asked why, he replied that it was because they were being shot at. This may well relate to an incident when the battalion was trying to cross the dry bed of River Scarpe Canal and it was held-up by a German machine gun post and this led to one of the battalion officers, Captain Cazalet, and a corporal attacking this machine gun post and destroying it with the result that they were recommended for Victoria Crosses. This may well have given rise to my father's comment that 'everyone out there deserved a Victoria Cross'.

"He also often commented about how wonderful the Salvation Army was in offering comforts to the troops in the most hazardous conditions, even helping with the Rum ration and also how the RC chaplain was often with them in the thick of the fighting.

"Then at the end of 1917 the Household Battalion was due to be disbanded and so early in January 1918 my father was transferred back to the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards then at Fampoux – virtually the same sector as the Household Battalion had been in for much of its time. However, it seems, that having been on the higher cavalryman's pay in the Household Battalion he continued to be paid at cavalryman's rate when he returned to his guard's battalion, hence the designation 'Trpr' on his medals.

"In early January, near Fampoux, it was snowy and bitterly cold but later this turned to rain and mud but the activity was fairly minimal although in early February the battalion suffered bombardment with gas shells, causing 104 casualties and for the rest of the month activity consisted mainly of patrols up to the enemy lines and this continued for the first three weeks in March, after which the last major German offensive started.

"At the start of this offensive the Germans were noted as massing opposite the battalion and in response the battalion retired to new positions and in the subsequent fighting the battalion suffered 30 killed and 90 wounded. All became quiet for a while then, but in early May the battalion was heavily shelled with 12 men being killed and 29 wounded and later, in June, there was another gas bombardment.

"In August, after the failure of the German offensive, miscellaneous trench warfare continued and some American soldiers joined in. During the month more patrolling took place and latterly a fresh German attack took place but this was repulsed.

"In September the German army was in retreat towards the Siegfried Line but on occasions there was some fighting and also several casualties from mustard gas and fighting to cross the Canal du Nord in the face of machine guns.

"In November there was sporadic fighting and machine gunning but on the 11th all hostilities finished and once the fighting stopped the Guards Division moved in stages to Cologne where they stayed for some time but returned to the UK for a victory parade before the king at Buckingham Palace on the 22 March, 1919.

"Having now read detailed accounts of the experiences of the army units in which my father served I now realise, at long last, what a dreadful experience it was for him and his comrades and how fortunate he, and my family, have been that he survived without injury. I now know why he was reluctant to relate his experiences, apart from the humorous items, but two specific occurrences come to mind.

"He often mentioned an incident when he was resting behind the lines and coming across a military policeman with a fellow soldier prisoner – my father asked the policeman what was to happen to his prisoner and was told that the soldier was about to be shot for desertion – my father was shocked and exclaimed 'not one of our own chaps, surely!' And the other thing was his surprise when entering Cologne at the very friendly reception his regiment received from the German population, whom he had expected to be very aggressive.

"My father mentioned a curious occasion when he was marching towards the front line and a bedraggled supply column of carts, horses and soldiers were passing them going the opposite way, when, wholly unexpectedly, he saw, marching along his older brother Harry, who was in the Army Supply Corps ('Ali Sloper's Cavalry') . My father managed to get away from his unit for a short while later that day and managed to locate his brother for a wonderful chat.

"My father's eldest brother George, also a soldier, was reported as being a prisoner of war and when my father learned of this he was so upset that he even had thoughts of giving himself up to the Germans to try and be with his brother. That brother's awful experiences as a prisoner of war, and having to do slave labour in a salt mine, left him permanently mentally damaged and unable to lead a normal life afterwards.

"On a lighter note, my father used to relate how he received regular parcels from home, even when in the front line, and these usually contained a cake that had been baked by his mother. But less pleasant was his Battalion being tasked with burying some of the many horses that the retreating German army destroyed – he would remark that a horse needed a very big hole.

"It is also important for me to mention that military service in the World War also involved my mother's family in that her eldest brother Joe, also from Wolverhampton, was terribly badly injured in his neck when fighting in France but survived because his comrades disobeyed orders and rescued him from No-Man's-Land after his crying for help for 24 hours, but he also suffered badly from stress afterwards leading him to panic at sudden noises and even threatening to shoot his own father with a souvenir German pistol! And his eldest son, also Joe, was taken prisoner in the Second World War during the terrible battle of Monte Cassino in Italy and he was then taken to Hamburg in a cattle truck without being allowed out of that truck during the whole of that fearsome journey. My mother's brother William Miller also served as a soldier in the First World War.

"After he had been demobilised my father returned to clerical work in the motor trade at Stars and Sunbeam in Wolverhampton and started his soccer career and with Wolves, he eventually became captain and was always a very enthusiastic member of the British Legion."

Bugle football expert Tony Matthews, in his book The Wolves Who's Who, wrote of William Caddick: "Born at Wolverhampton on 14 March, 1898, he attended St Luke's School until he was 15. He then played for All Saints FC (Wolverhampton).

"In 1919-20 he became a professional footballer with Wellington Town (in the highly competitive Birmingham and District League). Both Aston Villa and Wolves then sought his signature and it was the latter who secured his services in December 1920, Wolves signing him as cover for Maurice Woodward and Joe Hodnett. Caddick, who stood 6ft 1in tall and weighed 12 stones, had to wait until 10 March, 1921, before making his senior debut (at Stoke) and by the Following October he had established himself as a regular member of the first XI., holding his position until Sammy Charnley replaced him in 1925.

"Caddick, who helped Wolves win the Third Division (North) championship in 1923-24, returned to Wellington Town in June 1927. After twice helping Stafford Rangers win the Keys Cup (1928 and 1929) he retired in 1931 and later became licensee of the Hop Pole pub on Oxley Moor Road, Wolverhampton.

"Wolves record: 154 appearances, 2 goals."

Have you an ancestor that fought in the First World War? Do you have a story or pictures to share with Bugle readers? Please contact editor@black countrybugle.co.uk, call 01384 567678 or write to Bugle House, 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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