May, William Henry

WH May photo9940 Sergeant William Henry May, MM and Bar died at 22 years of age in service of the 3rd Bn of wounds while advancing with his Company on the Douai-Cambrai Road, when he was wounded in the groin by a machine gun bullet. He died the same day on 1 October 1918 at No. 20 General Hospital, Camiers, France.

Sergeant May attested with the 3rd Bn at 20 years of age as an “original” in September 1914 at Valcartier. All deaths are tragedies, and one must wonder how this man survived so many major battles, only to be killed with less than two months of the war left. Many more will die as the Armistice is negotiated.

He was born in Aldershot England to Mrs. Selina May who resided with her husband Charles at 55 Birchett Rd in Aldershot. He was born on 14 January 1895 and listed his calling as that of an actor. He had previous service with the 10th Royal Grenadiers and was assigned to No. 7 Company.

He was 5′ 8″ in height, 140lbs with a medium complexion, hazel eyes and black hair. He sailed to England aboard the SS Tunisian in October 1914 with the 1st Division. Considering the 1st Division was training on the Salisbury Plain, he was almost at home, being from Aldershot. He suffered an unusually wet winter during 1914/1915 and went to France in February 1915.

In mid- March 1915 he was released from the Divisional Detention Prison for some infraction.

He was first wounded in late March 1915. In October 1916 he contracted influenza, 12 November 1915 he received a shell wound in the head and shoulder and suffered from shock, spending a few weeks in the hospital.

In January 1916 he returned to the 3rd from 1st Div bomb school. In February 1916 he was sentenced to 56 days FP No 1 for being absent for 90 minutes.

In January 1917 he was awarded 10 days leave, on 28 June 1917 he was tried and convicted of drunkeness, absent without leave, and demoted for 5 months and fined 29 days pay. Two months later he was awarded his Military Medal.

He received a shell wound in his left forearm during the lead up actions at Passchendaele on 6 November 1917, requiring several weeks in hospital.

On 31 August 1918 he was wounded by a shell wound in the head and spent a few weeks in the hospital at Cayeux and Etaples.

On 1 October 1918 he received a gun shot wound to the thigh, and soon after passed away while in the care of No 2 General Hospital at Camiers.

He was wounded several times; Wounded March 22, 1915, November 5, 1917, August 30, 1918 and September 27, 1918

He was buried in Etaples Military Cemetery, France

“Some of you reading this today may recall that the garden in our grounds is commonly known as the Canadian Garden . You would be correct, as it was renovated, by the Canadian Regiment in 1944, when they used Holy Trinity, as their Service Church, whilst stationed in Aldershot. According to Peter Blake, who knows about these things, it is said that there used to be two tablets
associated with the garden and they had inscriptions on them. Sadly one of them has disappeared; thankfully, the other was recently found, stored in the shed for safe keeping, and nobody knew it was there! The tablet is granite and has a crest engraved into it and the following raised inscription, which intrigued me:

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Photo of tablet at Holy Trinity Church Aldershot UK courtesy Mr. John Pask

From an article written by John Pask;

Sgt May was awarded his Military Medal for his actions in assaulting enemy gun positions in Farbus Wood (at the south end of Vimy Ridge) and consolidating the outpost line between April 9th & 10th 1917. He was then awarded a Bar to his Military Medal for actions whilst in charge of a stretcher bearer party of 40 men during the attack on Fresnoy (Battle of Scarpe) on May 3rd 1917. Both these places were in the area around Vimy Ridge, where the Canadian forces fought with great valour.

His Awards were in the London Gazette on Friday 27th July 1917, which lists all those who were given honours.

Sadly, Sgt William Henry May died on 1st Oct 1918 from wounds sustained whilst advancing with his Company on the Douai-Cambrai Road, when he was wounded in the groin by a machine gun bullet. He died the same day at No.20 General Hospital, Camiers, France.

The one thing I have omitted to mention, was that William Henry May was only 22 years of age when he was killed. He was a truly courageous person, and I
feel that we should be truly proud, that his fellows wished to remember him in such a way at Holy Trinity.”

Also, Mr. Pask found a newspaper article in the Aldershot News from Friday October 18th 1918 about Sgt May.

WH May

With thanks to Adam Saunders author of the Facebook site 3rd Toronto Battalion CEF for the information contained on this page.

"In Pace Paratus – In Peace Prepared"

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