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Quorn WW1 Roll of Honour - William John Steer

Died 13th May 1915, aged 28
Battle of Frezenberg, Second Battle of Ypres, Belgium

Moving to Quorn

William John Steer was born in Henbury near Bristol in 1886, to Frederick and Alice Steer. Frederick was a coachman and groom. William and his elder brother (also called Frederick), both followed in his footsteps and went on to work with horses. By the age of 15, in 1901, William had left home and was employed as a groom in Hazelbeach, Northamptonshire. After this he moved to Groby (in Leicestershire), before his final move to Quorn.

In June 1910 he married 17 year old Emily Webster, the daughter of a locally established Quorn baker, Thomas Webster, and the couple started their married life together living with Emily’s parents, in their house and shop at what is now 29 High Street. Emily was pregnant and William Frank Steer was born later in June 1910, but tragically he died just three weeks later.

William joins up
The 1911 census shows William and Emily living in a small cottage on Soar Road, however William joined the Leicestershire Yeomanry in either 1911 or 1912, and they moved back in with Emily’s parents, Thomas and Finette, on High Street.

On 30th May 1912 William sent Emily a postcard from his base at Lutterworth (see below). The postcard says:
“My dear Em
Your letter to hand, pleased to hear you are alright, I am not half tidy, this is the by word. Excuse me not writing a letter but I thought I would get all the men on here. I hope your mother is better. Master Don has gone away, he went this morning at 6.10 until Saturday morning, don’t look at my phisog [face] it is not a very good one.
With best of love I am your loving husband Billy
xxxx xxxx
love to all at home”

Emily and William had two surviving children; Elsie born late in 1912 and Leonard in the middle of 1914.

Killed in action
William was killed on 13th May 1915, at the battle of Frezenberg, when seven Quorn men were lost, and C Company of the Leicestershire Yeomanry was decimated. He died before his youngest child’s first birthday and when Emily was only 23. Like many soldiers, William's body was never recovered. His name is inscribed on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres (Panel 5) and he also appears on the Quorn War Memorial and the War Memorial in Groby..

Emily eventually remarries
Thirteen years after William’s death (in 1928), Emily remarried. Her second husband was George Holmes, who worked at Wright’s factory, and was related to the well-known Quorn blacksmiths of the same name. Emily and George lived in Quorn at 73 Loughborough Road for all of their married lives. George died in 1971, and Emily remained in the same house until two weeks before her death on 9th November 1994, aged 102. It is poignant to think that she died nearly 80 years after William.

1) William Steer in uniform.

2) The baker’s shop where the Steers later lived with Emily’s parents. This photograph was taken in the late 1890s and is 29 High Street today. In the doorway is Emily’s mother Finette and to the right is her father, Thomas. Emily is standing between them. See Artefact 1554 for a ‘Then and Now’ comparison.

3) This is the postcard that William sent to Emily in May 1912. It is difficult to tell which soldier is William, but middle row, first left seems the most likely.

4) Emily Holmes in the 1950s.

 view larger image
 Submitted on: 2020-01-12
 Submitted by: Sue Templeman with many thanks to Pete and Jill Johnson
 Artefact ID: 2282
 Print: View artefact in printer-friendly page or just on its own.

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