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CAPENER, William (1890-1914) – Private, Gloucestershire Regiment

William Capener did not live in Badsey as far as we know but had Badsey connections through his wife, Charlotte Knight, who came from a family which had lived in Badsey since the 17th century.  His widow remarried in Badsey after the war and his son attended Badsey School for a time, so arguably Private Capener’s name had as much right to be on the Badsey War Memorial as some others with more tenuous links.  Private Capener’s name is recorded on the La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial, France, but, as far as we know, there is no memorial to him in England.

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William Capener was born at Gloucester in 1890, the sixth of seven children of William and Mary Anne Capener.  He had two older brothers (Frank and Frederick), three older sisters (Rose Mary, Lily Annie and Violet) and a younger sister (May).

William’s mother, Mary Anne, died in 1903.  By the time of the 1911 census, the family were all living in separate places.  Frank, Frederick and Violet were married; May was living with Violet and her family; Lily was living with an aunt.  William, meanwhile, had joined the Army and was based at a military camp for the Gloucestershire Regiment.

In 1913 in Gloucester, William Capener married born Badsey-born Charlotte Knight in Gloucester.  Charlotte was the daughter of Charles and Mary Ann Knight.

When war broke out, as William was already in the regular Army, he was amongst the first to go overseas as part of the British Expeditionary Force.  The 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment, which was at Bordon when war broke out, proceeded to France, landing at Le Havre on 13th August.  The Gloucesters saw action at The Battle of Mons (23rd August) and the subsequent retreat, The Battle of the Marne (5th-12th September), The Battle of the Aisne (12th-15th September).  By the beginning of September 1914, the German Imperial Army had swept through much of Belgium and north-eastern France and was fast approaching Paris.  The Battle of the Marne halted the month-long advance of the German forces toward Paris and decisively ended the possibility of an early German victory.  The battle also marked the beginning of trench warfare as Allied and German forces entrenched during and after the Battle of the Aisne in mid-September.  By November, battle lines had been drawn that would remain virtually unchanged for almost four years.  But, by that time, William was dead.

Private Capener was killed in action on 26th September 1914; he was the first person with a Badsey connection to be killed in the war.  His death was reported in the Badsey Parish Magazine of December 1914.  His body was never identified, so he is commemorated, along with 3,740 other officers and men, on the La Ferté-sous-Jouarre Memorial to the Missing.

On 19th January 1915, four months after William’s death, Charlotte gave birth to a posthumous son, William Arthur, in the Worcester district.  She later remarried at Badsey, in 1919, to Charles Henry Haines.  Charles and Charlotte initially lived in Cheltenham, where William started school.  William then spent short periods at Badsey School in 1921 and 1922, staying in the home of his grandparents (Charles and Mary Ann Knight), Hinton Villa, on Chapel Street, and then being full-time at Badsey from 1923-1929.  Charles and Charlotte later came to live in Badsey, and lived at 58 Synehurst.  Charlotte died there in 1970 and Charles in 1971.  William Capener Junior remained living in Badsey, dying at St James’ Close in 1972.  The Parish Magazine of September 1972 said:

Bill Capener had been in poor health for some time, with heart trouble.  He was born and brought up in Badsey, the son of the late Mrs C Haines by her first marriage, and was living in Badsey at the time of his death.  His father was killed in France before Bill was born, but he was devoted to his step-father, the late Mr Charlie Haines, as well as to his mother.  He was buried beside his parents’ grave.

William’s father, also called William, died a few months after his son in early 1915.  Most of William’s siblings remained living in the Gloucester area.