William Snelling was born in Reigate, around 1889. He appears on the 1901 census as an eleven year old boy living with his parents, brothers and sister at South Street, Chailey. In 1901 the family comprised: Arthur E Snelling (head of the family, a butcher, born in Battersea, aged 32), Minnie Snelling, (Arthur’s wife aged 34), William (son, aged 11), Richard Ernest Snelling (son, aged nine), Arthur Harry Snelling (son, aged eight) and May Snelling (daughter, aged 11 months). With the exception of May who was born in Chailey, the three boys had been born in Reigate so it seems reasonable to assume that at some time after Arthur’s birth around 1892 and before May’s birth (probably in May 1900), the family had moved from Reigate to Chailey.
William is first mentioned by Chailey Parish Magazine in January 1916 when it is noted that he is serving with the 5th Royal Sussex Pioneers in England. By May, it is noted that he is in France. Apart from details regarding his location, this information is then repeated monthly up to and including the final published roll call in July 1919.
William has two army numbers noted, both against the rank of sergeant with the Royal Fusiliers: 3520 and 241023.
The 1/5th (Cinque Ports) Royal Sussex Regiment was a territorial battalion which went to France in early 1915 and was attached to the 2nd Brigade in the 1st Division. On 20th August 1915 it transferred to the 48th Division and remained there until the end of the war, latterly moving with the division to Italy.
William’s first number would have been his original territorial number. His second, six digit number, was issued in early 1917 when the territorials were re-numbered and his number falls correctly within the sequence allocated to the 1/5th Royal Sussex.
William’s brothers Arthur and Richard also served during the First World War, Arthur dying of wounds in August 1918.