William was the youngest of the family's three children and the only son. The 1901 Census records the family living at 9 Hallam Street, Stockport. His father, also called William, was then aged 40 and working as a joiner. His mother, Emily, was also 40 and worked as hat trimmer. His older sisters were Caroline, 9 and Mary 6.
The local newspaper reporting his death noted that he was 17. Assuming this is accurate (and it has not been possible to verify it within the constraints of this project), then he must have enlisted when he was 16 and, as such, must have either lied about his age or, at least, a blind eye was turned. Certainly he should not have been overseas on active service until he was 18.
He had served an apprenticeship as a butcher and when he volunteered for the army, it was perhaps no surprise that his skill was needed. He was assigned to 365th Company of the Army Service Corps. This was a Depot Company, in France, involved in training and resupply, so it is probable that William was only with the unit for a short while.
By early 1916, he was in Brindisi in Italy and boarded the SS Citta di Palermo. This was an Italian ship carrying British troops, thought to be heading for the Salonika theatre of war in northern Greece. No-one knew that weeks before, on 10 December 1915, mines had been laid outside the harbour by a small German minelaying submarine, UC14, under the command of Oblt. S Casar Bauer. As the Citta di Palermo left harbour, bound initially for Durazzo in Albania, it hit a mine and sank. Several Royal Navy drifters went to help survivors and three also hit mines. They were the Frenchy, Cravenwood and Morning Star. 57 lives were lost on the troopship, including William. His body was never found and identified and his name is commemorated on the Hollybrook memorial to the Missing at Southampton.
The sad news will have been sent by telegram to the family home, now at 27 Hallam Street. William, senior, had died by this time but Emily and her daughters were there.