William was part of Stockport’s brewing family of the same name. His father, Herbert, worked for the company and, no doubt, a career in beer would have been William’s destiny if the War had not intervened.
About 1895, Herbert, then in his mid-20s, had married Nina, a woman eight years older than him. By the time of the 1901 Census, they had two children – Doris, aged 4 and William, 2. The family lived for many years at “Moorville”, 75 Hall Street. Herbert’s occupation on the census was a brewer’s traveller but, perhaps, this underestimated his role in the Company as his income was certainly sufficient for him to be able to employ a live-in general servant, 17 year old Emma Hockey.
It’s not known when William joined the army but he was probably conscripted in 1916 when he became 18.
The Third Battle of Ypres had been underway for two months by the end of September 1917. Progress had been very slow and casualties had continued to mount. On 1 October, William and his comrades were in a reserve camp near Ridge Wood. The Battalion received orders to prepare to take part in a large scale attack on the 4th (later officially designated as the Battle of Broodseinde). They paraded at 6pm and marched to assembly positions at Glencorse Wood. The Battalion War Diary records “During the march, the Battalion suffered a number of casualties. At Clapham Junction, guides from the 7th Leicester Regiment who ought to have met the Battalion did not do so and it was 1am, 3rd October, before the Battalion took up position. Battalion HQ was in a “pill box”.”
During 3 October and the early hours of the 4th, the Battalion was so heavily shelled by the Germans that about half the men became casualties and the four companies had to be amalgamated to two. It was impossible for such an understrength unit to attack and their orders were cancelled and replaced with new ones. They were to remain in reserve but be ready to go forward to support the attacking units. Zero hour for the main attack was 6am and it went reasonably well. However, the battalions to their right did not achieve their objectives and, at noon, the amalgamated company of men from the original “A” and “B” Companies were forward to form a defensive flank. At 3pm, this group assisted with breaking up a German counterattack coming from Cameron Copse.
Sometime during the day, William was killed. His body was never recovered and identified.