William Slade HEYWOOD
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 8517
Unit: 9th Battalion ROYAL FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 3 October 1916
Age: 31
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

William Heywood came from a successful middle class family. He had been born in New Moston, Manchester in about 1886. By the time of the 1901 Census, his father was a woollen cloth merchant and the family had moved to Park Gates, Cheadle Hulme. William had an older sister and two younger brothers. In keeping with the times, they had two "live in" servants - listed as a housemaid and a general servant. William had been educated at public school and, in 1901, was working as a clerk with an insurance company.

When war was declared in 1914, he was living in Heaton Moor with his wife, Ada (nee Mellowdew). The couple had married at St Thomas' Church, Oldham in the late summer of 1908.  After the war she married a Mr Hunn and moved to "Bryn Celyn", Llysfaen, Colwyn Bay. William's parents also moved to Wales - retiring to Trearddur Bay, Anglesey.

William had probably joined the army in late 1914. He will have seen action on 9 July 1916 when, as part of the Battle of the Somme, which had started at the beginning of the month, the Battalion made an attempt to capture the village of Ovillers. The Regimental History records "Few more costly actions were fought in the whole of the Battle of the Somme. The weather was bad and though no rain fell during the night, the fumes of the gas shells were blanketed into the hollows of the ground and formed a death trap for the many who fell wounded...........The Prussian Guards who held these battered trenches were worth foemen and though the first and second trenches were captured, the cost was very terrible."

At the end of September, the 9th Fusiliers were in camp in the reserve area. On 1 October, they were ordered back into the front line and left camp at 4.30pm. Their destination was a series of trenches west of the village of Gueudecourt. They marched here through the country that had been captured in the previous three months, relieving a battalion of the Middlesex Regiment by 11.15 pm. Throughout the night, the enemy shelled their positions, causing several casualties.

The shelling continued all the following day, causing much damage to the front line trenches. The men spent the day trying to dig a new communication trench from the reserve to the front line and, generally, attempting to deepen the trenches which were too shallow and in a bad condition from the shelling and the wet weather.

On 3 October, the Germans continued their artillery barrage throughout the day and it became very difficult to undertake the work repairing the defences. Work continued until 11pm, when the Battalion was relieved back to reserve trenches near the village of Flers. William was one of 12 men killed by the shellfire during the day. Like him, most have no known grave.

(Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

   
           
   
     
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