William Henry BEECROFT
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Date of Death: 22 July 1918
Age: 23
Cemetery: Bertrancourt Cemetery, Somme, France

William had been born on 9 April 1895, the younger son of George Arthur Beecroft and Sarah Jane Beecroft of Spring Cottage, Cheadle Hulme and had been educated at Stockport Grammar School. He later became an articled pupil with Walter Humphreys & Co, chartered accountants, of Stockport. The 1901 Census shows that, apart from his older brother, he also had four older sisters. At the time, his father was a wholesale jeweller and was successful enough for the family to employ a live-in servant. It seems that his father later moved into the cotton business but, had died by 1918. In that year, William and his mother were living at 54 Hulme Hall Road, Cheadle Hulme. It would seem as though all five of his older siblings had moved away. Certainly his older brother, George Arthur, had emigrated to New Jersey and had married. George also served in the forces but chose to join the Canadian army where he served with the engineers as a sapper.

On 29 August 1914, William enlisted in the 1/6th Manchester Regiment as a private (service number 2229, and, later, 250413). His attestation papers describe him as been 5ft 11.5 inches tall with a 34.5 inch chest. His address then was 76 Swan Lane, Cheadle Hulme.  He saw action in the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign from May 1915 until the troops were evacuated, when he returned to Egypt. His file, at the National Archives, notes he was sick and away from duty between 20 October and 25 October 1915 and, again, between 20 November and 24 November.

William was promoted to Lance Corporal on 1 February 1916 and to Corporal on 1 September. He spent a couple of months on active service in France and, in May 1917, he returned to England to train to become an officer. He was commissioned on 31 October 1917 and was posted to the 6th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment and went with them to France in January 1918.

Shortly after arrival in France, William was attached to the 1/7th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers and assigned to "C" Company. On 22 July 1918, the Battalion was in the front line near the small village of Colincamps, in the north of the Somme battlefield. "C" Company was ordered to raid an enemy trench known as Watling Street. Such raids were a common feature of trench warfare and were designed to disrupt enemy morale and to gain intelligence, possibly by the capture of prisoners. In this case, the British troops came under fire from machine guns and grenades and they were unable to reach the German lines. William and one other officer were killed and 34 soldiers wounded. 

His outstanding pay of £11.12s.4d was sent to his brother George, who was then living in London. It was not paid until 28 June 1919.

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

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