William Reuban LAWRENCE
Rank: Private
Number: 105585
Unit: No. 3 Company Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment)
Date of Death: 30 October 1917
Age: 32
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

William does nor appear to have had any direct connection with the Stockport area and, almost certainly, never lived or worked in the town.

He was born on 27 September 1885 in Tooting, London. The name of his father is not known but, by 1915, his mother, Sarah, had married a Mr Timms and was living at 21 Guelph Street, Wandsworth.

William emigrated to Canada and settled in Keddleston, Saskatchewan, where he was a farmer. He enlisted into the army at the province's capital, Regina, on 11 December 1915. His enlistment forms, which are available on-line at the Canadian National Archives show that he was a short man, only five feet three inches tall, with a 37 inch chest. He had a ruddy complexion with dark brown hair and blue eyes. William had described his religion as Church of England.

The Third Battle of Ypres had started on 31 July 1917 and very slow progress had been made in the advance. Many objectives for the first day remained in German hands but, in a series of large scale attacks, there had been some advancement of the line. On 17 October, the PPCLI was withdrawn from the front line to undertake training for another attack planned for the 30th. They practised for six days and then returned to Ypres to go into billets in the town. On the afternoon of the 28th they moved forward to positions on the Gravenstafel Ridge. As they were going into the trenches they were heavily shelled by the enemy, but there were few casualties.

During the afternoon of the next day, they moved forward again into their "jumping off" trench for the attack scheduled for 5.50am the next morning. They were in position just after 11pm. Several more casualties were taken during the night, but, on time, the Allied artillery barrage opened on the German positions and the Canadians left their trenches. By 7am, messages were being received at Headquarters that the attack was going well. A little later, the right hand Company reported back that it was unable to keep up with the creeping barrage due to the smoke, but the Canadians were taking prisoners and sending them back down the ridge.

At 9.25am, another message was received "Crest of hill taken. Large pill box surrendered. Our machine guns established."

The objective had been secured but at a high cost of casualties. The strength of the Battalion was estimated to be only about 225 (they had started with 600). The message was received "Many stretcher cases on the field. Stretcher bearers wanted."

By 1.45pm, urgent demands were being made for more ammunition for the Lewis guns (light machine guns). Already the Germans were mounting counter-attacks but these were driven off by artillery fire. By now, the Battalion strength was estimated at only 180. In the early evening, the Battalion's War Diary records that "Arrangements being made to get extra troops as stretcher bearers to clear battlefield of numerous wounded. Some parties came up but owing to shelling few of them are able to get beyond the ridge."

They held their position until the following day when they were relieved. There had been 354 casualties - including about 100 dead. The continued shelling made recovery of bodies almost impossible and many men who died, like William, have no known grave

In the early 1920s, when the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information, William's mother, Sarah Timms, was living at 6 Mill Place, Brinksway Road, Stockport. No doubt It was she who arranged for her son's name to be inscribed on what was now her local war Memorial.

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