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First Name: William Frederick Last Name: FORSE
Date of Death: 08/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Twickenham
Rank: Private Unit: Royal Naval Division Chatham Battalion
Memorial Site: County Hall Memorial

Current Information:


49, Campbell Road, Twickenham

Berchem Communal Cemetery, Belgium


After the German army steamrollered its way through Belgium in August, 1914, the bulk of the Belgian army fell back to Antwerp, on the River Scheldte, close to the Dutch border.  Winston Churchill, as the First Lord of the Admiralty, wanted British forces to go and join up with the Belgians in Antwerp and he came up with the ‘Naval Division’ scheme whereby a naval division, consisting of Royal Marines and surplus naval ratings was sent there. This was not Churchill’s finest hour. It was an impossible task and the naval personnel were mainly men called back from retirement or raw recruits. None of them had had any training in land warfare and Churchill put himself in charge despite his lack of any suitable military experience. The British force arrived there on 6th October and were put in defensive positions on the city’s perimeter where they immediately began sustaining casualties. By this time the Germans had laid siege to the city which they then began pounding with their heavy artillery. Knowing that Antwerp would be destroyed in the same way that Liege had been in August, the Belgians decided to abandon Antwerp and on 8th October the orders for the withdrawal of both the Belgian field army and the Royal Naval Division were issued. As far as the British were concerned the withdrawal was no easy as individual units made their way west by train or road. About 1000 of them were captured when their train was put out of action and others crossed the border into Holland where they were interned for the rest of the war. One of those who did not make it back was William Forse of the Chatham battalion, who lost his life on 8th October.

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