James and Clara Sullivan had married in the mid 1880s and had four children together, before he died in 1896, aged 36. Clara continued to live at the family home at 3 Carrington Street, Portwood with the children and her mother, Sarah Healey. When the 1901 Census was taken, the eldest child, William, was working as grocer's apprentice but, shortly afterwards, he joined the army as a regular soldier.
It's thought that he had completed his time by 1907 and had returned to Stockport when, in the late summer, he married Mary Ann Dickinson at St Mary's Church. They would have three children together and lived on Upper Brook Street. He had gone to work at the cotton mill of T & Leigh Ltd, Water Street, Portwood but, more recently, had been working at Pear New Mill in Bredbury. William was still an army reservist and was recalled to the colours when War was declared in August 1914. He was wounded during the first battle of the War at Mons on 23 August and didn't return to active service until early 1916. In March he was gassed and spent some more time in hospital before returning to duty.
Mary had been in poor health for some time and she died in January 1917. It can be said, almost with certainty, that the army would not have allowed William leave to return home for the funeral or to make arrangements for the children. In July, he was again wounded, this time with a shrapnel injury to his neck and had only just returned at the end of August.
On 5 September 1917, the Battalion took over a section of trenches in the Nieuport defence line. The Battalion's War Diary makes no mention of casualties for the 7th noting only that working parties were provided to help with the consolidation and improvement of the trenches. William was one of three men known to have been killed during the day, most probably by enemy shellfire.