The family man who died in battle - just weeks after saying goodbye to his wife and children

William in his days as a policeman.
William in his days as a policeman.

A father-of-three got one last chance to see his beloved wife and children before he died in the most brutal war of all.

William Stevenson, a former Horden and Wingate policeman, turned to the Army when his country needed him.

William in his Army uniform.

William in his Army uniform.

He was only 32 when he was manning a bombing post in the First World War. A colleague watched as he was hit in the enemy attack near Ypres.

William’s story has been followed by keen historian Kevin Dance, who has carried out hours of painstaking research.

And like many of the other stories, he has uncovered, the one of William was “another fascinating story about a remarkable man”. He took up the story.

The date was March 2, 1916, said Kevin.

Sgt Stevenson was wounded, I saw him in the bombing post. He was sitting in the shelter. Later in the day the shelter was blown up. Sgt Stevenson was killed and buried by the explosion

An Army colleague, 1916

William Stevenson was serving as a Sergeant with the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders.

But tragedy struck on the frontline and, as an eye-witness colleague reported: “Sgt Stevenson was wounded, I saw him in the bombing post. He was sitting in the shelter. Later in the day the shelter was blown up.

“Sgt Stevenson was killed and buried by the explosion.”

Just two months earlier, he had been enjoying a week’s leave at home with his beloved wife Isabelle, nee Kernick, and their three children Margaret Annie, 4, Mary, 2, and Thomas William, 1.

When the week was up he rejoined his unit in Belgium and paid the price for serving his country with his life.

But worse was to follow, according to a report in the Mail’s sister paper the Sunderland Echo in 1928.

It told how the Hetton soldier’s body had been found after being missing for 12 years.

A body had been discovered at Verbrandenmolen, but who’s was it? Tragically, Sgt Stevenson’s widow held the answer.

A gold ring was found on the body and, when she was shown it, recognised it as belonging to her late husband.

Sgt Stevenson’s life had been an interesting one even before he joined the war.

He had been a policeman and had been stationed at Wingate, Horden, and Hetton.

Then, when hostilities broke out, he was determined to serve his country.

He enlisted with the Gordon Highlanders in March 1915 – the day before he resigned from the police force.

Kevin added: “He is remembered with honour close to where he was killed at Sanctuary Wood Cemetery in Belgium.

“He was awarded the British, Victory, and Star medals.”

Is there any aspect of North East history you would like to share?

Email your memories to chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk