William MARK
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 244778
Unit: 4/5th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 29 October 1917
Age: 20
Cemetery: Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium

William was born in Manchester, in the autumn of 1897. The family moved to Reddish when he was young, although they do not appear to have been in the area when the 1901 Census was taken. They settled at 23 Westbourne Grove.

William attended Houldsworth School and was a keen and skilled footballer. He captained the school team, taking it to the finals of the Stockport Schoolboys Cup, although they lost. He later played as fullback for St Agnes AFC. When he left school, he went to work locally, at Reddish Vale Print Works.

He enlisted into the army on 13 October 1916 and will have gone overseas in the early part of 1917. His older brother, George was also in the army and had seen action at Gallipoli in 1915, before moving to France.

The Third Battle of Ypres (often called Passchendaele) had started on 31 July 1917 and had, immediately and literally, become bogged down in the mud caused by heavy rain. In what is often seen as the futility of the Western Front, further attempts to advance were made over the coming weeks, but objectives for the first day were still in German hands. On the 26th October, a further attempt to capture the village of Passchendaele itself was planned.

The men of the North Lancashires were in their assembly trenches by 4.30am. 70 minutes later, the British artillery barrage opened on No Man's Land and the German front line, effectively preventing the Germans from manning their front line strongpoints.. The men went "over the top" keeping only 25 - 50 yards behind the protection of the barrage.

The Regimental History records "Despite the mud and water-logged shell craters, the line advanced steadily behind our own barrage and under slight enemy MG (machine gun) fire until about 6am. At about 6.20, the troops were finally held up at the Green Line, a barrier of MG fire being opened up by the MGs in the pill-boxes immediately in front and on the flank. A party of men succeeded in working round a pill-box in the ruins of a farm building. This strong point held 30 men who were killed or wounded by Lewis gun and rifle fire and bombs."

During the advance, about 40 enemy aircraft repeatedly flew over the troops at low altitude causing some casualties. The History continues "From 6.30, the troops were compelled to lie low in water-logged shell holes owing to the sweeping MG fire and constant sniping from men posted in trees, shell craters and pill boxes."

Although pinned down, the North Lancashires drove off a German counter-attack with Lewis gun and rifle fire, but they realised that the Battalion on their left had not been able to advance. The unit on the right had advanced but had now been forced back. This left the men in a dangerous position. The History continues "Communication with Battalion headquarters was almost impossible as runners were shot down in attempting to get back reports of progress........Telephone communication was only possible with the Battalion on the left. Heavy rain began to fall about midday. The right and left flanks were up in the air....most of the Lewis guns and rifles were out of action and the men reduced in number and much exhausted through exposure and being in water-logged craters for two days and two nights. For the above reason, it was considered necessary to withdraw to the original line and this was effected by 9pm. During the withdrawal, most of the wounded were brought back to our lines."

William was one of those who had been wounded. He was evacuated back to one of the field hospitals based at Poperinge where he died three days later. As far as is known, George Mark survived the war

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