William HINCHCLIFFE (HINCHLIFFE)
Rank: Private
Number: 1462 (240123 recorded by War Graves Commission)
Unit: 1/5th Battalion CHESHIRE reGIMENT
Date of Death: 1 July 1916
Age: 25
Cemetery: Gommecourt Cemetery No.2, Somme, France

William had been born within the parish of St Mary's C of E Church, Stockport. In 1916, his father, stepmother, brother and two sisters were living at 116 Brinksway Road. Sometime earlier, William had married Clara and they had a son called Harold. The family had lived at 4 Bank Street, Heaton lane, Stockport. By early 1920s, Clara had also died, but it is not known when.

Military records and the local newspapers of the time spell his surname as Hinchliffe. However, the 1901 Census confirms the correct spelling on the memorial as Hinchcliffe.

As a boy, William had attended Edgeley Primitive Methodist Sunday School and had been a member of the school football team. Later he worked at India Mill, in Stockport. His service number suggests he was probably a prewar member of the Territiorial Battalion and volunteered for overseas duty when war was declared in August 1914. It is believed the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has made a mistake with the number it has recorded for William. The six-digit numbers did not come into operation until 1917.

The Battalion was commanded by Colonel J Groves. He was not respected by many and was described in a subordinate officer's diary as "An absolute coward, he dare not go out to the trenches. The C.O. is living in luxury. Carpets, sofas, fires and beds just the same as at home. He sits down and carves his joint and has his wine at night." This was in stark contrast to William and his comrades who were living in the trenches amongst mud, lice and rats. In the early part of 1916, Colonel Groves volunteered them to become a Pioneer Battalion - having the dual role of fighting and trench construction. The men felt they were no longer a "proper" front line unit, who only had to fight.

1st July 1916 was the first day of the Battle of the Somme and was the last of William's life. He was in trenches opposite Gommecourt in the north of the battlefield. The Cheshires' job was to follow the leading attack battalions across No Man's Land to consolidate the captured German trenches and establish strong points to repel any counter-attack. They left their trenches at 8am, in the third wave of troops. In the smoke and confusion, many lost contact with their officers and comrades.

They made it across No Man's Land to the captured trenches but quickly found themselves having to drop their tools and engage in fierce hand-to-hand fighting with groups of enemy soldiers who had come out of their "dugouts". Initially, the attacking battalions were able to consolidate but, by the middle of the day, were coming under intense artillery fire. Germans were attacking them with grenades from both sides of their positions. By mid afternoon, retreat was the only possibility.

45 members of the Battalion had been killed. William was originally posted as "missing". By March 1917, the military authorities made a presumption that he must have been killed. Presumably, his body was found and identified some time after that and he is now buried at Gommecourt.

   
           
   
     
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