William had married his wife, Matilda, in the very late 1890s and they set up home at 6 Eryngo Street, Stockport. Over the years, they would have four children together. The 1901 Census records William's occupation as a railway porter, but he had changed jobs by the time he enlisted into the army in October 1915. He was then employed by Joshua Preston Ltd, a clothing manufacturer on Chestergate.
The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July but the Guards did not arrive in this sector until mid-August. They went into the front line on 16 August and the history of the Irish Guards (by Rudyard Kipling) records that large number of bodies of men killed on the first day were still lying in No Man's Land as it had been too dangerous to retrieve them. The Battalion buried over 200 during this first tour of duty. A month later, they went into their first major action in an attack towards the village of Lesboeufs.
25 September was marked for another attack - this time to capture Lesboeufs itself. Zero hour was set for 12.35pm and, as the whistles blew, the men left their assembly trenches and started out across No Man's Land, following closely behind the protection of a creeping artillery barrage. As the first waves moved away, the enemy shelled the trenches causing many casualties amongst the second and third waves. The British artillery had done a successful job and the German trenches were captured with relative ease. The Guards pressed on to their second objective which was also captured.
Kipling wrote "The final surge forward included a rush across uprooted orchards and through wrecked houses, shops and barns with buildings alight or confusedly collapsing around them and the enemy streaming out ahead to hide in shell-holes in the open."
The attack had been a success and the Battalion dug-in in a potato field a few hundred yards north of the village. The afternoon was spent strengthening this line under shellfire, but things quietened down as night fell. William had been killed in the attack. Perhaps his body also lay in the open for weeks until it was no longer possible to identify him. Perhaps he had been killed in the initial shellfire and there was nothing left to bury. Certainly he now has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval.