William Arthur Bonshor

Sgt 5582, 1st Grenadier Guards (1895-1903): RSM 25546 14th Battalion Canadian Infantry (WW1)

WW1 cap badge, Canadian 14th Battalion.
WW1 cap badge, Canadian 14th Battalion.

William Arthur Bonshor served with distinction in Gibraltar and Egypt between 1895 and 1903. He emigrated to Canada in 1905, and returned as a Regimental Sergeant Major with the Canadian Infantry, earning the DCM, during WW1.

Family background

William was the oldest son of George and Martha Bonshor, born in 1877. George Bonshor came from Waltham on the Wolds, where he was born in October 1841. In May 1871, he married 28 years old Martha Yates, from East Leake. In 1881, they were at Sherrard Street, Melton Mowbray, where George was employed as a gardener. There were then five children: Sarah J, (b.1873), Martha (b.1875), William A. (b.1876), Emma (b.1878) and John R. (b.1880). By 1891, they had moved to Village Street, Muston, and George now described himself as a farmer. Young Martha had died, but there were four more children: Mary E. (b.1882), George E. (b.1885), Alice M. (b.1887) and finally Isaac Henry, born in 1888. The Grantham Journal of 1890 (19th April) reported that “Masters William and John Bonshor played … a fife and violin duet …” during a service at the Wesleyan Chapel in Muston.

By 1901, the family had moved to Woolsthorpe Lane, Muston, but there were no more additions. Then it appears that George and Martha were the only family members at home in Muston in 1911, and they later moved to Bottesford, living at Ladysmith, Belvoir Road. William had left home to enlist with the Sherwood Foresters back in 1895, when he was 19 years old, following earlier spells with both the Leicestershire and the Grenadier Guards.

Military service

William attested at Derby on the 12th November, 1895, aged 19 years 9 months, as Private 4856 4th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters. He was already a soldier, serving with the Leicestershire Regiment and previously with the Grenadier Guards (he had also been once rejected because of “curvature of the spine”, though one wonders if this was really because he was too young). He re-attested on the 27th Nov. 1895 as 5582, 1st Grenadier Guards. He was promoted corporal in July 1899, and to sergeant in January 1902. He was discharged on the 23rd June, 1903 at London, Sergeant 5582, William Arthur Bonshor, 1st Grenadier Guards, after some eight years of service including periods in England, at Gibraltar and in Egypt. He was awarded the Sudan Medal (Queen’s) and the Sudan Medal (Khidive’s) with clasp “Khartoum”.

The 1901 census recorded him as one of the garrison at Caterham Barracks. He was then a 24 year old, unmarried soldier, with the rank of Lance-Sergeant.

After leaving the Guards, William Bonshor chose to emigrate to Canada. He married Florence Dudley on the 11th March, 1905, at St Andrew’s, Enfield, Middlesex. Then there is a record of William Bonshor sailing from Liverpool to Halifax, Canada, aboard the “Bavarian”, Allan Line, in 1905. He described himself as a single labourer, aged 28, and was travelling alone. It is open to doubt that this is the same William Bonshor. However, another record has F.Bonshor, housewife aged 36, migrating “for permanent residence” from London to Montreal, on the “Corinthian”, Allan Line, on the 17th July 1913. It may be that William emigrated first, claiming to be a single man, and that Florence followed him ten years later.

What is certain is that in WW1, William Bonshor served with the Canadian Infantry. The Grantham Journal reported on the 29th January, 1916, that “Sergeant Major William Bonshor of the 1/1st Canadian Contingent and eldest son of Mr and Mrs Bonshor of Bottesford, who had been in France for some considerable time, had been awarded a distinction for meritorious service in the field. He was born on 12th February 1877 and had served in the militia before gaining seven years’ experience in the Grenadier Guards. He re-enlisted during WW1, signed his Attestation papers at Valcartier on 21st February, 1915, and joined the 14th Battalion.” He was awarded the DCM: the citation stated “W.A. Bonshor, RSM 25546 14th Battalion. For conspicuous gallantry on numerous occasions, he many times, with total disregard for his own safety, led men to positions which would afford them more safety. His bravery, resource and splendid example have given the greatest encouragement to all ranks with him.” – 11th March 1916. There is also an entry in the London Gazette in August 1916.

The date and place where he died have not been confirmed, but are likely to have been in Canada. During WW1, the 14th Battalion of the CEF was the Royal Montreal Regiment, part of the 1st Canadian Division. We are not aware that he was killed, but are unable to confirm this as yet.

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