William was the youngest of the five children of John and Harriett Pollard and had been born in Heaton Norris. When the 1901 Census was taken the family was living at 138A Castle Street, Edgeley, where John had a business as a paper merchant and printer. Nothing is known of John's early life other than he had been connected with the Stockport Sunday School.
As far as can be established, when William joined the army he was posted to a Home Service Battalion, probably as his fitness was not thought sufficiently robust to cope with the rigours of the trenches. His service number was 52050 and, whilst later regimental records indicate he served with the Royal Defence Corps, this seems unlikely. The various Home Service units were indeed merged into the RDC, but this was not until August 1917. His Manchester Regiment service number dates to around a year earlier and it is most likely that he went overseas in the late summer or early autumn of that year as one of a draft of replacements for casualties in the Battle of the Somme.
The Third Battle of Ypres (often known as Passchendaele) had started on 31 July and was still grinding on nearly three months later. The British troops had slowly advanced up the Passchendaele Ridge in a series of "bite and hold" attacks. Another small scale advance was scheduled for 22 October. It would involve 4 British Divisions - approximately 70,000 men.
On the 35th Division front, the attack would be led by 23rd Manchesters on the right and 17th Lancashire Fusiliers on the left. Throughout the whole campaign, there had been heavy rain and deep mud but the ground had dried out a little and it was hoped the men would be able to make quick progress. They attacked at 5.35am. The Regimental Archives holds an unpublished history of the Battalion, which now takes up the story:-
"The first objective was reached with slight casualties. From this point, however, resistance was more stubborn and very heavy rifle and machine gun fire was experienced on both flanks. In fact so devastating was the fire that all the officers were either killed or wounded and it was almost the same with the NCOs and men."
In fact, the machine gun fire was coming from some huts which had been overlooked in planning the attack. One small group of Manchesters attempted to attack pillbox near "Six Roads" but without success.
"..the Battalion was unable to make further progress. Such survivors as could be collected - that is about 50 other ranks, under a Company Sergeant Major, withdrew to their original line.
The attack had been failure. When the roll was called, 28 men were known to be dead, 120 wounded and 56 were still missing. The final death toll was 65, including William and two other local men, Harry Turner and Charles Thorpe.