William had been born in the Stockport area in about 1882 and, as a younger man, had joined the regular army. By 1910, he had completed his time and had returned to the north west to live at 13 Tamworth Street, Hulme, Manchester. He earned his living as a commissionaire. On 13 August of that year, he married his fiancée, Maggie Kellock, at Christ Church, Heaton Norris. She was 27, worked in a cotton mill and lived nearby at 26 Parsonage Street. They never had children.
When War was declared on 4 August 1914, William was still an army reservist and was recalled to the colours. The 2nd Battalion took part in the first British engagement of the War, at Mons on 23 August, and the subsequent fighting during the retreat. The Battalion’s War Diary entry for 6 September reads “This was a red letter day for instead of marching away from the enemy, we found ourselves marching eastwards and presumably parallel with him…….(we had) marched for twelve days and rested for one and in that time we had covered 180 miles of road.”
The coming days saw the advance continue and, by the early hours of the 14th, they were digging in on a plateau above the hamlet of Troyon. Scouts detected a large force of Germans near a factory to the north of the hamlet. Orders were issued to other units to engage the enemy. By 5am, “D” Company was in the actual village making preparations to support the attack if necessary. “A” and “B” Companies were in reserve at the southern edge of Troyon and “C” was holding outpost defences on the flank.
Shortly after 5, heavy rifle fire was heard from the top of a hill to the west of Troyon and it was established that the enemy there was being engaged by a cavalry troop of the 9th Lancers. “C” and “D” Companies were now diverted to support the Lancers. Meanwhile the attack on the factory had got underway and “A” Company was ordered forward to support the Royal Sussex Regiment.
On both fronts, the enemy was gradually pushed back with hard fighting. However, as dusk fell, the Germans made a determined counter-attack, pushing the British out of the factory and, under cover of darkness, then managed to make a safe withdrawal, including taking their supporting artillery with them. William was one of 72 to have died. He was originally posted as “wounded and missing”. His body was never recovered and identified but it would not be until August 1915 that the War Office made the official presumption that he must have died in the fighting.