Forbes W G

Major William Guthrie Forbes, MC, 135th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery


Died of wounds, 26th September, 1918

William Guthrie Forbes was born in 1890 in Stokesley, the second and posthumous son of Dr William Guthrie Forbes and his wife, Louisa Ross Guthrie, nee Dagg. In 1871, his father, William senior, described as JH, GP and MBCM of Edinburgh University, was a single man lodging in Stokesley High Street with Dr John Handyside. In 1873, Forbes became medical officer of health to the Stokesley Rural Sanitary Board, and by 1881 he had his own house (and presumably practice) on the High Street. (The premises which he occupied served until recently as the Spar shop, and are situated where the High Street meets the west side of College Square).

Dr Forbes married Louisa in 1885 and they had three children: Nina (born 1887), Alec (1889) and William Guthrie Forbes junior (1890). The younger boy was given the name of his father, but tragically, William senior had by then died aged only 42 on 7th September, 1889, following a short illness. The younger William never saw his father, and it seems unlikely that any of his children would have personal memories of their father.

The family was far from destitute, however, having been left over £4500 in Dr Forbes’ will, which was proved in October 1889 by the executors, (Louisa herself and the well-known Stokesley solicitor and benefactor, John Page Sowerby).

The young widow (she was 26 when her husband died), was able to support her family in Springfield Villas in the town, where they were joined at first by Louisa’s sister Lillie and a parlour maid. Springfield Villas was still the family home in 1901, when the two sons, aged 14 and 11, were living there with their mother.

According to the Stokesley Book of Remembrance, William went to work in a bank, and joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve while still doing so. He served at first as Able Seaman LAA/282 (signifying the London Anti-Aircraft section), but later obtained a Commission in the Royal Garrison Artillery.

The London Gazette of 10th October 1916 reported his posting to active duty:
"RGA West Riding Lt WG Forbes is seconded for duty with the regular RGA 26th August 1916"

Drafted to France 30th September 1916, William proved his courage by earning the Military Cross. He remained on the Western Front for 2 years, and his career can be traced through further entries in the London Gazette:

Published 25/9/1917:
"The undermentioned to be Acting Captains: Lt WG Forbes MC (9/3/1917)"

Published 12th July 1918
The undermentioned to be acting Majors:
Lt (Acting Captain) WG Forbes MC (10/6/1918)

However, on September 25th, 1918, when the Allied forces were at last winning the war and the Germans were falling back, Major Forbes was wounded: he died the following day at the age of 28 years.

Louisa Forbes, having been widowed at 26, had now lost both her sons, and inherited the effects of all three of her menfolk. William’s estate totalled £551 18s 10d. Had he lived to return to Stokesley, his would undoubtedly have been an influential voice in the town’s development between the wars. His death had irrevocably removed the last male member of the Forbes family from the Stokesley scene.

As well as his Military Cross, Major Forbes was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His body lies in Plot C13 of Thilloy Cemetery, Beaulencourt, Pas de Calais.

See also Forbes A. elder brother of William Guthrie Forbes.

Go to next soldier: Foster F.D.

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