Born: 23rd June 1915, Ipswich.
Died: 22nd May 1940; age 24.
Rank: Private; Service Number: 7591392.
“The 1st Battalion Welsh Guards from the 17th – 24th May 1940 formed the nucleus of the force defending Arras France. After a week during which the town was bombed and shelled and the garrison had repulsed persistent armoured attacks, the order came to withdraw. In the days between leaving Arras and embarking for Dunkirk the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards was involved in costly company actions at Cassel, Vyfewg and West Cappel. “
Arras Communal Cemetery,
Pas de Calais,
Relatives Notified & Address: Son of John Arthur & Hilda Jane Victoria Abbott, of Ipswich; husband of Edna Joan Abbott, of Ipswich.
Father: John Arthur Abbott born 1897, Ipswich – died – killed in action near Neuve Chapelle 2nd June 1915 serving with the Suffolk Regiment, 4th Battalion.
Mother: Hilda Jane Victoria Abbott (nee Page), born May 1897, Ipswich.
In 1921, Ipswich, Hilda married John Ernest Elsey, born February 1899, Bury St. Edmond’s, Suffolk. A Heavy Lorry Motor Driver. They made their family home at 21, Sturdee Avenue, Ipswich.
In 1939, Ipswich, William married Edna Joan Dorling, a Dressmaker, born April 1918, Ipswich – daughter of William Frederick Dorling, a railway goods guard & Esther Dorling (nee Trumpess), of 15, Ranelagh Road, Ipswich.
In August 2001, William’s widow, Mrs. Edna Ely, of 25, Walton House, Emlen Street, Ipswich, wrote to Mr. Reg. Driver after reading an article in the ‘Angle’ newspaper about the extension of the war memorial at Christchurch Park. She wrote that she would be pleased if they would add the name of her first husband William John Abbott to the memorial.
Arras had in the First World war been a main objective to be captured by German forces. The town was a central hub for road, rail, and canal networks. Belgium, Paris and the French channel ports were just hours away. 17 British men were killed in the defense of Arras in May 1940 dozens more were injured. The road to the North saw a plucky action which took the Germans by surprise. 12 Matilda tanks lay in wait for the main German column, which at this time was racing towards the coast and Dunkirk. The British slow moving light Mathilda tanks traveling downhill onto the main road, with a top speed of 4mph, opened up with their main weapons a Vickers machine gun, spaying the convoy with bullets and causing a large scale panic in the over extended line of the column. Trucks with Germans and light armored cars were at first put out of action. The Germans thinking this was a prelude to a bigger attack stalled their advance and attempted to bring up more support and supplies before they moved forward. This action delayed the advance by days enabling More troops to slip away to the coast. The 12 Matilda tanks were slowly all knocked out, the two man crews if not killed, crawled away. Arras was soon shelled and street by street was slowly taken. Arras has an Accord (Twinned) with Ipswich.