William Tatham was born in Todmorden in about 1895. The 1901 Census shows him to be the youngest of the six children of Harold and Edith Tatham, then living at 23 Victoria Road. William's older siblings were Harry (then 17), Mary (15), Benjamin (14), Sarah (11) and Edith (9).
When War was declared in August 1914, William enlisted in Todmorden into the local Territorial battalion. His connection with the local area is not known. The 1914 edition of Kelly's Directory lists a Mrs Tatham as living at 39 Albert Road, although it cannot be known if she was a relative. There may be a connection with Edwin Jones, also remembered on the Cheadle Hulme Memorial. Captain Jones commanded the Fusiliers' "D" Company and it is probable, as both were killed on 13 June, that William was also serving in that Company.
On the night they died, Captain Jones led the Company whilst it undertook a raid on enemy trenches opposite Givenchy. The purpose was to divert the attention of the Germans from British activities further north at Messines and to inflict losses on the enemy. Raids such as this were common and were intended to demoralise the enemy troops and also to identify which regiments were opposite.
The element of surprise was usually lost with a trench raid, in that there was a need for several days artillery bombardment to cut the enemy's barbed wire. In this case, the Germans retaliated and put down gas shells onto the British communication trench up which the Fusiliers were moving to reach the front line. The attack was launched at 3am, with "A" Company on the right and "D" Company on the left. As they crossed No Man's Land, the enemy again shelled them with gas. Few casualties were suffered and they made it into the German trench system along 200 yards of the front line and were able to penetrate to a depth of 130 yards. They were in the trenches for an hour, throwing grenades into dugouts and inflicting a number of casualties. They did not capture any prisoners but were able to identify the German units from papers found on the corpses.
The Germans then launched a counter-attack - moving up through the trench system and, also across the open ground. The Fusiliers were able to fend them off until the appointed time for return, when the Royal Engineers laid down a smokescreen to cover the withdrawal. As they did so, the Germans were able to reoccupy the front line and start firing. This is when most casualties occurred. Captain Jones was one of the first to be hit. Another 24, including William, were also killed and 54 wounded.
The Official History of the Lancashire Fusiliers notes "The behaviour of the Germans after this raid was peculiar. Soon after the raiding party had returned a German climbed on to his parapet and beckoned to the Englishmen who were on the look-out for stragglers. Both sides sent out small parties into No Man's Land and began to clear the dead and wounded - it being agreed that neither side would cross the half-way line between the trenches. One of the Germans knew Manchester and said he wondered what was on at The Palace that week."
(Original research for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)