William Brown WOOD
Rank: Private
Number: 12795
Unit: 2nd Battalion CHESHIRE Regiment
Date of Death: 24 May 1915
Age: 35
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

William was born in Cheadle Heath and, as a young man, served for 8 years in the regular army with the Cheshire Regiment. He saw action in South Africa during the Boer War and was awarded the Orange Free State and South Africa medals and clasps.

Between October and December 1903, he married Alice A Farnsworth at St Matthew's Church, Grenville Street, Stockport. By the time of the Great War, William and Alice had three children and they were living at 10 Jennings Street, Edgeley. William had left the army some years before and was working as a gasser at the cotton mill of Reynold's Ltd, Newbridge Lane. There were two jobs for "gassers" in the mill. One would have worked in the gas-room where raw cotton was de-fumigated. The other would have applied gas to cotton threads to smooth them.

When William left the army, he would have been required to spend several years on the reserve list and subject to recall in times of war. He had completed the period by 1914 but, nonetheless, William volunteered to rejoin his old Battalion in late August or early September 1914. The Battalion did not arrive back from its tour of duty in India until Christmas Eve 1914, so it is possible that William was able to spend one last Christmas with his family. The Cheshires went overseas again on 16 January.

The 2nd Cheshires had suffered many casualties during a German attack on 8 May, described here, but William seems to have been fortunate on that day. They were then withdrawn to rest billets to reorganise and receive fresh troops. On the 22nd, they moved forward to positions at Brandhoek, some 6 kilometres west of the town centre of Ypres (now Ieper), but still some way behind the front line.

In the early hours of 24 May, the Battalion was ordered forward to positions south of Ypres to retake positions which had just been captured by the Germans. The Regimental History records "They reached a point east of Vlamertinghe and began to prepare their mid-day meal. Unfortunately they were ordered forward before they could eat it. All the Battalions of the 84th brigade were very weak, having been only partially made up to strength with drafts of young officers and raw men.... What men they had were immature, inexperienced and untrained and the officers were in much the same state. There were few NCOs. All ranks lacked training and discipline.......The actual attack started at 5pm. There had been no chance of cooking food and the men were all tired and famished, besides being without experience. Direction and cohesion were soon lost but a few men got within 200 yards of the German line and dug themselves in." The Battalion's War Diary records that they were subjected to a "withering shell fire" whilst advancing.

The Cheshires held the position until they were relieved at 11pm on 25 May. In the preceding 24 hours, the Battalion had suffered nearly 300 casualties - killed, missing or wounded. William was amongst the dead, along with James Randall and Thomas Hough. None has a known grave.

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