William Dolan
Rank: Private
Number: 3458
Unit: 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment
Date of Death: 18 July 1916
Age: 26
Cemetery: Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France

William's commemoration on the South Reddish War Memorial is as a member of the Regiment's 11th Battalion and, indeed, this is the unit he joined when he enlisted very shortly after War was declared in August 1914.

He was one of four brothers to serve during the War. Only one would come home. James and Thomas were also killed.

The 1901 Census records the family living at 3 Ann Street, Stockport. Thomas Dolan, a pavior's labourer, was 41 and married to Catherine. They had eight children - Mary (then 19), Pavel (?sp, 17), Terence (15), Thomas (13), William, (11), Bridget (9), James (5) and John (3). By the time of the War, the family had moved to 34 Hawkins Street, Reddish. William had married and was the father of a child. They still lived at the family home.

11th Manchesters left Liverpool on 1 July 1915 to go into action at Gallipoli as part of a strengthening force. They landed on 7 August and, just five days later, William was wounded and was evacuated from the Peninsula. Whilst recovering from his wounds, he also contracted enteric fever and was, in consequence, away from the action for some time. When he had recovered, he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion.

The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July and, although William and his comrades had not taken part in any of the major attacks, they were always close to the action. On the 1st, they had moved forward in the afternoon, to relieve one of the attacking battalions and were subjected to heavy fire from the enemy.

On 9 July, the Battalion took part in its first significant engagement of the Battle. In comparison with the attacks of nearly two weeks before, this was a fairly localised advance to try to wrest the village of Ovillers from the Germans. Zero hour was fixed for 11.30am. As the men advanced, they were quickly pinned down by heavy machine gun fire. The attackers had hoped to work through the original German trench system which had been captured in previous days but the commander of "D" Company reported that the trench leading to their objective came to a dead end and they had 100 yards of open ground to cross. A single company did not have the strength to carry out an attack in the open. Re-enforcements were sent up and the objective was taken at about 4pm.

A further attack was ordered for the next day, even though the men were very tired from the previous day's fighting. The commanding officer's report on this attack noted the "advance had been carried out across craters and ground which resembled ploughed fields under considerable hostile sniping and machine gun fire, the whole was in an unimaginable mass of craters, dead and debris. It had been found best to advance with scattered parties in small rushes."  It proved not to be possible to secure all the objectives due to the mounting casualties. The attacking battalions then dug in and held the positions, under heavy fire, for the remainder of the day and throughout the 11th.

The Battalion was relieved to the reserve for three days before returning to the front line on the 14th. William is known to have died from wounds he received, rather than being killed outright. Whilst it is not possible to be certain when this happened, it would seem most likely that it was during this day. They were subjected to heavy enemy shelling between 9.30pm and 11pm. In the early hours of the 15th, they were relieved and transferred away from the Somme.

The cemetery where William is buried was used by the Field Ambulance which, as well as transporting the injured, operated the Main Dressing Stations a little way behind the front line. Here army doctors would stabilise a man's condition allowing him to be further evacuated to a field hospital. The fact that William was still here, perhaps, three days later, can mean only one thing. And that is the doctors had determined there was absolutely no hope of his survival. He will have been made as comfortable as possible and, no doubt, given very high doses of morphine for the pain, but he will received no further treatment.

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