William had been born in Northenden (then in Cheshire, now part of Manchester), most probably in the rural area of Lawton Moor outside the village. The 1901 Census shows him living in that area with his parents, William and Mary and his two older brothers, Albert and Charles. William, senior, was earning a living as an agricultural labourer. William, junior, would later marry and move to 7 Andrew Street, Cheadle where he lived with his wife and child.
He enlisted in Manchester, originally serving with the Monmouthshire Regiment (service no. 4460). It is not known when he transferred to the Borderers, although it was probably in 1916.
On 9 April, the Germans opened an offensive that would become known as the Battle of the Lys (after the river). At that time, William's Battalion had just finished a tour of duty in the front line. They were quickly ordered back in and moved, by bus and route march, to new positions at Le Doulieu - some 10 kilometres to the west of Armentieres in northern France. They arrived during the evening of 10 April to find that the enemy had captured a number of crossing points over the river. The front line was being held, very thinly, by troops of the 40th & 50th Divisions, who were exhausted from two days of defensive fighting.
The Battalion "dug in" on a long front in a series of holes some 300 yards behind the troops who were already there. There was no time to prepare proper trenches. At dawn, the enemy attacked again. As planned, the front line battalions pulled back, leaving the fresh troops of the Borderers to face the Germans. As they fell back, a gap appeared in the new front line on the Battalion's left. Captain Bennett, commanding "C" Company, tried to spread his men out to cover this but the distance was too great for them to be effective. About one hour later, the Germans attacked again at this weak spot and worked their way round to the back of where William would have been. They then rushed the trench causing many casualties and this is probably when William was killed.
Throughout the day, the men became disorganized and casualties continued to grow with the men fighting in small defensive pockets, mixed up with troops from other units. At dusk, the men of the Battalion were collected together, but only numbered 140 and 3 officers of the 704 men and 20 officers who had gone into action in the morning. Most had been wounded or taken prisoner but there had been 101 fatalities during the day. Many, like William, have no known grave.
William is almost certainly the W Renshaw remembered on the war memorial in Northenden, the village of his birth.
(Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)