20325 LCPL. L. WOODS. Oxf. & Bks.L.I.
Levi Woods was born on 1 October 1885 in Preston and he was baptised at Preston, Christ Church, on 15 October. His father was James Alfred Woods (b. 1858 in Preston), a tape sizer in a cotton mill. His mother was Mary Jane Walne (b. 1862 in Longridge). Alfred and Mary Jane were married in 1879 and they had 7 children: Alice (b. 1880), Elizabeth (b. 1881), then Levi, then Fred (b. 1888), Lily (b. 1893), Harry (b. 1894) and finally Louise (b. 1897). Shortly after Levi was born the family moved first to Tardy Gate then to Bamber Bridge, settling in the village in about 1890. It seems that Levi may have served in the navy from 1902-1911 but by 1911 he was back in Bamber Bridge and living as a boarder with his sister Alice and her husband John Smith who was the publican of the Hob Inn. In August the same year, he married Fanny Clarke (b. 1887 in Higher Walton).
Levi’s attestation papers have not survived but from his medal records we know that he enlisted first with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, with service number 7977. He served with 3rd Battalion and landed in France on 19 January 1915. In November that year they moved from France to Salonika so it may have been at this point that Levi was transferred to the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He was given a new service number, 20325, and was posted first to 6Bn then to 5Bn. 5th (Service) Battalion came under orders of 42nd Brigade in 14th (Light) Division. At some point, Levi was promoted to Lance Corporal. In 1917, 14th Division were engaged in the pursuit of the Germans to the Hindenburg Line, then during the Arras Offensive at the First and Second Battles of the Scarpe. Later that year they fought in the Third Battle of Ypres, at the Battle of Langemarke (16-18 August), and the First and Second Battles of Passchendaele (12 October and 26-30 October). In early October 1917, the Battalion was in billets near Zillebeke, east of Ypres. The weather was mainly wet and cold. They went into the trenches on 16 October and the War Diary observes that the trenches were ‘pretty dirty in both senses of the word’. So far as they know, they are only there to hold the line, not attack, but anything can happen on the Ypres front. As they move up to the trenches, under heavy artillery fire, they suffer about 40 casualties. Enemy artillery and snipers are very active during the night. On 18 October, they were asked if they would stay an extra couple of nights in the trenches, in exchange for being last ‘out’ on their next tour – to which they agreed. They hear that a new push is to be made in about a week’s time; shelling and sniper fire continue and they are losing an average of 20 casualties each day. On 20 October, the Germans lay down another heavy barrage, killing 6 men and wounding 14. Nevertheless, the line receives a number of visiting officers, inspecting the positions from which the offensive will be launched. They were finally relieved on 21 October and had few further casualties as they left the trenches. However, they were moved to new trenches near the Menin Road. On 24 October, they were finally withdrawn from the trenches and returned to billets at Berthen. During this tour of duty in the trenches, the War Diary reports that they had 1 officer killed and 7 wounded; 20 other ranks killed, 4 missing and 149 wounded and gassed. It was during this period, on 24 October 1917, that Levi died of wounds received in action. He was 31 years old.
Rank: Lance Corporal
Service Number: 20325
Date of Death: 24/10/1917
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, 5th Bn.
Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 96 to 98.
Memorial: TYNE COT MEMORIAL
Additional Information: Son of Alfred Woods; husband of Fanny Woods, of 22 Church Terrace, Higher Walton, Preston, Lancs.
Fanny’s brother was James Coleman Clarke who emigrated to Australia then enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force and was killed on the Somme in 1916. For further details see: http://www.southribble-greatwar.com/clarke-james.html. Fanny remarried in 1921, to James Parkinson (b. 1886 in Higher Walton).
Levi’s brothers, Fred and Harry probably served in the army as well, though I don’t have conclusive evidence. Harry Woods may be 680105 Private H Woods, in the Royal Field Artillery. If so, he landed in France with 55th Division on 30 September 1915. Harry Woods emigrated to the United States in 1922, married Viola Marran Shaw in Lucas, Ohio, in 1927, became a naturalised US citizen in 1929, moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he had a son, Alfred, in 1936. He died in San Diego, California in 1970.