William Mutum

Service number:   |  Rank: Private | Regiment: Suffolk Regiment

Died, November 23, 1918.  Aged 21.

Buried at Brandon Cemetery BRANDON CEMETERY, Suffolk, UK.


The distinction of being the last name to be added to Brandon’s war memorial goes to William Mutum, who died almost two weeks after the Armistice. William was born in spring of 1897 and was the eldest son of William, a furrier’s warehouse man, and Martha Mutum, of George Street, although William did have two older sisters. He also had a younger sister and brother and a twin sister, named Florence Ruth Mutum. By the 1911 census his parents were no longer working for someone else but had opened up a fishmonger shop along London Road.

William was wounded on 30th March 1916, reported as, “gunshot wounds to his hand and leg“, and it seems were so severe he was brought back to Britain on the Hospital Ship ‘Panama’.  He spent time convalescing before, like so many other men, he was  declared fit and returned to the front line.  Even so, William was still not in the best of health, and on 30th July 1917, while he was serving at Arras, he went to see an Army doctor because he had pain after eating food, was vomiting and had blood in his stools.  He was also loosing weight quickly.  The doctor sent him for an X-ray, which at the time was a science very much in its infancy.  A month later a test of William’s urine revealed sugar, leading to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.  William was referred to the Medical Board, who suggested his condition would only be aggravated by active service, so he was listed as, “being no longer medically fit for war service” and discharged on 24th October 1917.  His discharge papers reveal much about his personal appearance at the time – 5-feet, 3-inches tall, fair complexion, fair hair and blue eyes.  The report also stated he would never recover from the condition, which it suggested caused him 50% disability.  William was destined to receive an Army pension for the rest of his life.  A life, that sadly would only last another thirteen months.  While Europe celebrated the Armistice, Brandon people were succumbing to the influenza pandemic sweeping across the world.  William in his weakened state contracted the disease and died on 23rd November 1918.

His funeral took place on Thursday 28th November and was officiated by Rev P.J.D. Johnson at the St Peter’s Church in Brandon. He was given a military funeral and a detachment from the Gordon Highlanders, who were probably billeted in the town at the time, led the cortege to the church and then to his graveside afterwards. A service then followed at William’s graveside and then the Gordon Highlanders formed up and fired a gun salute, three volleys over his grave. A bugler then sounded the “Last Post”. The floral tributes included those from his parents, sisters and brother, including his sister Beatrice who was in France at that time, “his little chum” Pinkie Wright and other friends and family. There was also one from his fiancée, Florence Catchpole, which was simply worded “his sweetheart”.

A few days later William’s parents, who by now were running a fishmonger shop at 11 London Road, Brandon, through the Thetford & Watton Times, thanked all their friends for the kindness showed to them following the loss of their son. In December 1918 his parents went along to Thetford Registry Office and registered his death, probably the only man on Brandon’s war memorial to have his death registered at home. William was aged 21 years old.

As a postscript his twin sister, Florence, married Lieutenant Ronald Johnson, Yorkshire man, in June of 1918, five months before William died. She lived a long life and died in Northampton in 1983, aged 86.