William Henry GREGORY
Rank: Private
Number: 38065
Unit: 23rd Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 16 March 1917
Age: 36
Cemetery: St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, Seine-Maritime, France

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes that William's parents were Sam and Hannah Gregory, of Woodley. An examination of the 1901 Census suggests only one family with this couple at its head and with a child of the right name and age. Assuming it to be correct, then the future soldier is recorded on the Census as 14 year old Willie, who was already working as a piecer in a cotton mill. The family was living at 148 Black Lane, Chadderton. Other children were John (then 21), Ann (18), Joseph (12), Charlie (9), Alice (3) and Eliza (2 months).

Little else is known about William's life, except that, in 1911, he married Ellen Lee. Her address after the War was at Bankfield Cottages, Woodley but this may not have been the home she shared with William. Regimental records published after the War suggest he was living in Hyde when he enlisted into the army at Salford. Recruitment for the 23rd Battalion started on 21 November but William was not amongst the first to sign up. His service number suggests it was some time well into 1915 before he enlisted. The 23rd Battalion was a "Bantam" unit - formed of men originally rejected because they were under the regulation height of 5 feet 3 inches, so it can reasonably be assumed that William was not a tall man.

He will have taken part in the Battle of the Somme in the summer and autumn of 1916. However, by the end of the year, the Army's "experiment" with Bantam units had proved not to be a success. Many of the short men also had low physical stamina which was rendering them unfit for the rigours of trench warfare and a considerable number were discharged from frontline units, to be replaced with new recruits, who were no longer just Bantams. William was obviously fit enough to continue but fell ill in the spring of 1917. He died, of unknown natural causes, whilst at a military hospital at Rouen.

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