LIEUTENANT WILLIAM HEPTON
5TH DRAGOON GUARDS
9TH NOVEMBER 1918 AGE 34
BURIED: BREBIERES BRITISH CEMETERY, FRANCE
As William Hepton's inscription shows, he enlisted within a month of the outbreak the war and died two days before the end, serving for a total of four years, two months and eight days. Fate is cruel.
Hepton's medal card indicates that he was a serjeant in the Yorkshire Hussars in August 1914. This was a territorial regiment and its soldiers were under no obligation to serve abroad. However, within the first month many territorials volunteered for foreign service and it would appear that Hepton was one of them.
He served on the Western Front from his arrival in France on 15 April 1915 until he returned to England to take a commission in the Yorkshire Dragoons, remaining with them until February 1917. After this he was attached to the 5th Dragoon Guards and was serving with them when he died of pneumonia following influenza on 9 November.
The only son of Arthur Hepton and his wife Eliza, who died in 1914, William Hepton was born in Headingley in 1884. Educated at Shrewsbury School and Oriel College, Oxford, he joined the family firm of Hepton Bros. Mantle Manufacturers of Leeds. In 1914, the company were employing 1,996 workers in the manufacture of ladies' mantles (cloaks), costumes (suits), waterproofs and raincoats.
On 20 November 1918, the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer carried a report of Hepton's death. The paper recounted his war service, and relayed the praise of his senior officer: "he always did his duty to his country, as it was always his first thought, and the only course that such a gentleman as he could ever think of taking". But rather strangely, the passage is preceded by the comment, "It would be unkind of me" to tell you how well he always did his duty to his country, and is followed by the words: "Lieut. Hepton left a bed of sickness in response to an order to go forward, and being unable to ride on horse back, was wrapped up and travelled for over three hours in a lorry". It would appear to me that William Hepton, in "doing his duty to his country", responded to an order, to the detriment of his health, which contributed to his death. It would explain why he's buried in a small cemetery close to the front line.
Hepton's inscription closes with the words, 'Love never faileth'. The reference is to 1 Corinthians 13:8 and the words come from the 1881 Revised Version of the New Testament. Without love, whatever other qualities we have are as are nothing:
Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth.