William RAYNER
Rank: Private
Number: 203650
Unit: 2/4th Battalion EAST LANCASHIRE Regiment
Date of Death: 10 October 1917
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Almost nothing is known about William Rayner. At the time that he enlisted into the army, his home was in Derby, although he joined up in Stockport. It is possible, therefore, that he was working in the area and that his employer subsequently arranged for his name to be inscribed on the War Memorial.

His first unit was a Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. His service number was 5416 which probably indicates an enlistment in late 1915 or early 1916 and is consistent with him joining Stockport's local territorial Battalion - the 6th Cheshires. There is no indication on his medal entitlement records at the National Archives that he served abroad with the 6th Battalion, so probably only undertook training with them. On completion, he was transferred to another of the Regiment's Battalions and given the number 30765.

At some point, he was either wounded or ill and out of action for some while. When he had recovered, it will have been decided that the East Lancashires were in greater need of replacements and he will have been reassigned and given yet another service number. This must have been after January 1917, when the six-digit service numbers were introduced.

On 9 October, William and his mates were in support positions ready to assist the 2/5th Battalion which was to take part in an attack towards the Passchendaele (the village which has given the common name to the Third Battle of Ypres). They were not called on to go into action that day, although the 2/5th had only been able to advance some 500 yards before the attack had become stalled in the face of heavy German fire. The next morning, the Germans counter-attacked and the 2/4th was now ordered forward to support the other Battalion. The attack was driven off but the troops suffered heavy shellfire all day, until they were withdrawn during the night.

William was, almost certainly, killed by the shellfire and this accounts for why he has no known grave.

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