William and his older brother, Arthur, were born in Stockport. When the Census was taken in 1901, they were living at 16 Great Egerton Street, the home of their brother in law, John Ratcliffe. Although it is known they had other brothers and sisters, there is no mention of their parents living locally. The Census records the spelling of their surname as Blomefield. This may be a simple error by the census taker but it is possible that, in the later wartime years, William may have altered it to make appear more English. Both brothers worked in the cotton industry, Arthur as a ring doffer and William as a bobbiner.
In later life, William changed jobs and went to work at the local ironfounders of Hollingdrake and Son. He also married and they lived at 29 Queen Street West with their daughter.
Records indicate that, when war was declared, William originally joined the Royal Field Artillery (service number W/4827). His on-line medal entitlement records at the National Archives do not mention this, suggesting that he never served overseas with the artillery and would have been transferred to the Cameronians, probably when he had completed training.
During the evening of 19 July 1917, William and his mates moved out of reserve positions near Brandhoek and relieved the 6th Cameron Highlanders in the front line at a position known as the Ecole, near Ypres. They were in control of the trench line by 3am the next morning. The 20th was described as a quiet day but on the 21st William would be killed.
His Captain later wrote to his widow “Your husband was gassed while in the front line trenches and died almost immediately. He was buried by his comrades close to where he fell. He had not been very long in my Company, but he had in that time proved himself a very gallant and trustworthy soldier and, on behalf of officers and men, I ask you to accept our sincerest sympathy. At least you have the slight consolation that he died a hero’s death at his post.”
The officer may well have some felt some guilt towards William’s death as he had actually been gassed by his own side. The Battalion’s War Diary for the day records “One platoon gassed by premature burst of one of our Livens projectors. 10 deaths. 1 officer and 12 others affected and evacuated.” The Livens Projector was a trench mortar specifically designed to shell the enemy with gas.
William and his comrades will have been buried just behind the front line trenches. Many of these burial areas were destroyed in the remaining 16 months of fighting, or their locations lost. William now has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Ieper (then Ypres).
The Stockport Express, in its edition of 30 August 1917, contained an “In memoriam” notice from several members of William’s family. As well as his wife and daughter, there were two sisters and husbands living at Swann Street, Portwood (one husband serving in France); another sister and husband living at 17 Egerton Street; a brother and sister in the USA. William’s older brother Arthur (then serving in Mesopotamia – modern day Iraq) and daughter, Annie, 32 Swann Street, were also included.