Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
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13007917   Private William Nelson
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 08/07/2020
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: Pioneer Corps (British Army)
Died: 17/06/1940 (Killed in Action)
Age: 42
Summary      
William Nelson was born about 1898. He served with the Ulster Division during World War 1. He was the husband of Elizabeth Nelson. They had a least on son, Victor. Private William Nelson was serving with Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps at Rennes Train Station when he was killed in action on Monday 17th June 1940.
Private William Nelson
Further Information
William Nelson was born about 1898.
Private William Nelson served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in World War 1.
William was the husband of Elizabeth Nelson. They had a least on son, Victor Nelson.
William Nelson served with the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps in World War Two.
On Monday 17th June 1940, the Germans bombed Rennes Train Station, causing many casualties.
An unfortunate situation developed on the 17th June in the number of trains that were held in the bottleneck at Rennes awaiting a track to be freed. A munitions train was among the trains held. This train contained a deadly cargo of high explosives, artillery shells and cartridges. Shortly before 10am planes approached the railway and dropped a number of 500kg bombs:
bullet on the munitions train
bullet on a refugee train from Paris and Liseaux
bullet on a train (212 and 203 Artillery) in which were recruits mostly from Paris, the north and from Alsace.
bullet on the train of British soldiers, the majority Indians, who were leaving Rennes to return to England.
bullet on a train (222 artillery A.L.C.D.) in which were recruits for the most part from the south.
More than 800 recorded British and French, both military and civilians, died following the Luftwaffe’s bombing attack on the railway complex at Rennes in Brittany, France on Monday 17th June 1940.
Private Nelson was serving with Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps on board one of these trains and was killed in action on that day.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 16th November 1940:
Mrs Nelson, of Fountain Road, Cookstown, received official intimation during the week that her husband, Private William Nelson (Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps), is missing. He was with the British Expeditionary Force in France, and no communication has been received from him since June. Private Nelson served with the Royal Inniskillings in the Great War.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 20th June 1942: Roll of Honour – In Memorial
NELSON – In loving memory of my dear beloved husband, Private W Nelson, Pioneer Corps, killed in action on 17th June 1940. Deeply regretted by his sorrowing wife and son. Elizabeth and Victor, Fountain Road, Cookstown.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 17th June 1944:
NELSON – In loving memory of my dear husband, Private W Nelson, Pioneer Corps, killed in action in June 1940. Deeply regretted by his sorrowing wife and son. Elizabeth and Victor, Fountain Road, Cookstown.
Private Nelson is buried at Section 18, Plot 1, Row A, Grave 61, Rennes Eastern Communal Cemetery, Ille-et-Vilaine, France. The inscription reads: LEST WE FORGET.
Of the 252 Commonwealth Burials from the 1939-45 war in Rennes Eastern Communal Cemetery the majority come from this troop train, including Private Nelson.
Private William Nelson is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph.
William’s son Victor lived at Fountain Road, Cookstown.
The CWGC record Private William Nelson as the husband of Elizabeth Nelson of Cookstown, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
There is speculation that Private James Nelson, who served with the 9th Inniskillings and died at home in 1915, was his William’s brother. However. ABSOLUTELY no evidence can be found to substantiate this. James had a brother called William, but he was born on 2nd July 1880, which meant he would have been 60 years old by 1940.
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Relevant Cookstown Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Fountain Road Cookstown Central Father lived at Fountain Road 54.639804 -6.741023
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 Luftwaffe attack on trains. Describes the bombing attack on Monday 17th June 1940
Cookstown District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2010-2020