Nothing is known of William's life, except that regimental records published after the War indicate he had been born in Heaton Norris. He is probably the William Pulford Broomfield whose birth was registered there in 1886. His service number and date of death confirm that William was either a pre-War regular soldier or an ex-regular, still an Army reservist, who was recalled to the Colours when War was declared on 4 August 1914.
The 1st Battalion had been in Malta on garrison duties and was hurriedly recalled to England, arriving back in Southampton on 3 September. A month later, it went overseas again, landing at Zeebrugge on 7 October. They immediately went into action, defending strategic points, allowing the Belgian army to withdraw from its defence of Antwerp.
The fighting now moved to around the Belgian of Ypres (now Ieper). The major advance started on 19 October when William and his comrades were near Dadizeele. However, it became clear that there were very strong enemy forces and an order was issued to withdraw. By the 21st, the British line had withdrawn further and men were starting to "dig in". The next several days saw developing German attacks.
On the morning of 30 October, William and his mates were in the front line just to the north of the village of Zandvoorde. The German artillery started a heavy shelling which preceded an infantry attack. The Fusiliers were only some 400 strong - less than half strength - and were deployed in hastily dug slit trenches. Their field of vision was impaired due the hedges which enclosed the fields. This also prevented easy communication with neighbouring battalions. But, as the Germans advanced, the Fusiliers accounted for many casualties with deadly rifle fire.
Around 8am, the German attack on the right had been mounted in overwhelming numbers and the order was given to them to retire. However, these orders never reached the Fusiliers with disastrous consequences. A Lieutenant Wodehouse, who was wounded and captured, gives an account of the day in the Regimental History:
"We were holding a line about three-quarters of a mile long, "A" Company on the right, then "B", "D" and "C" on the left. Battalion HQ was in a dugout about 600 yards to the rear. The trenches were not well sighted for field of fire........About 8am the shelling increased and we saw large numbers of Germans advancing down a slope about 1500 yards away to our front. Also I believe large numbers were seen coming round our exposed right flank. The batteries on the ridge were now firing point-blank into our trenches, so that it was difficult to see what was happening and the rifle fire also increased from our right rear. No orders were received so it was thought best to stay where we were and about midday the whole Battalion was either killed, wounded or taken prisoners."
Only about 90 Fusiliers managed to fight their way to safety. William was not amongst them.