William John Sivewright had lived with his father (also called William John) and his mother, Mary, at "One Oak", Cheadle Hulme. He had been born on 15 May 1895 in Hartepool and the 1901 Census suggests he was usually known as John. When the Census was taken, the family was living at Darley Avenue in South Manchester. He had three older siblings - Edith, Roy and Fred. His education was at Lorettto School in Scotland, where he was a member of the Officer Training Corps.
He worked, in Manchester, at the family firm Sivewright, Bacon & Co. The Company owned and operated merchant ships. The Manchester City Battalions Book of Honour (page 614) also mentions an F Sivewright who volunteered to fight but who was rejected, presumably on health grounds. This is his older brother, Fred.
William left England in September 1914 and spent several months training in Egypt before going into action at Gallipoli. On 5 August, he received a minor bullet wound to the right thumb and he was evacuated to Egypt, also suffering from dysentery. This proved to be fortuitous as, the next day, the Battalion was involved in a major attack which was unsuccessful. He then spent seven weeks in hospital in Marseilles before returning to England on sick leave, on 9 November. He had recovered by May 1916 but did not rejoin the Battalion, now back in Egypt, until February 1917 as it was leaving to go to France.
September 1917 brought the Battalion to Nieuport on the Belgian coast. He had been promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to Lieutenant with effect from 1 June 1916 and is believed to have been serving with "B" Company. William is recorded, by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, as holding the rank of Captain but it has not been possible to verify this from any other official sources. This is only of relevance in that Herbert Nidd (also commemorated on the Cheadle Hulme Memorial) is definitely recorded as being "B" Company's commander. He is assigned the rank of Lieutenant in the Battalion's official history, but the Divisional History also records him as a Captain.
The battalion was billeted in huts amongst the sand dunes. This was occasionally shelled by the enemy - usually during the evening. The Battalion's history records this, however, as being a comparatively relaxed time. It describes patrols "In warmer weather it was accomplished in bathing costume and tin hat, with revolver between the teeth or behind the ear, but cold nights discouraged these efforts and we sneaked about on our side of the river wondering what we could do."
After a couple of weeks here, the Battalion moved to new positions on the other side of the town. At the beginning of November, it was in support of the units in the front line. It was scheduled to relieve the 5th Manchesters on 2 November. During the evening of 1 November, advance parties went to look at the new position and William went on behalf of "B" Company. It seems that, whilst he was there, he and a couple of others decided to go out into No Man's Land, to examine some new barbed wire that had been put up and the get the general "lie of the land". They had not gone very far when they were met by a patrol of enemy soldiers who threw grenades at them, killing William and two officers of the 5th Manchesters. The Battalion's history comments that "it would appear that the usual patrol precautions had not been considered so seriously as they would ordinarily have been."
His parents hoped that he had just been taken prisoner. The Stockport Advertiser, 3 January 1919, carried a request from his parents for any information about him from returning prisoners of war. A letter from the War office, in April 1919, confirmed he was still missing. It is presumed that his body must have been discovered and identified after this time during the battlefield clearances. Soldiers were not issued with identification "dogtags" during the Great War, but many had them made. William was one of them and three discs were amongst his effects. It is presumed that he must have been wearing a fourth when he went on patrol and this enabled his body to be identified.
(Updated: February 2008)