William spent all his life in the Reddish area until he enlisted into the army on 3 September 1914. He was the eldest child of Thomas and Martha. At the time of the 1901 Census the family was living at 26 Manchester Street (and later at 26 Stanhope Street). His younger siblings were Elizabeth (then 9), Ambrose (7), Richard (5), Alice (3) and John (1). The family worshipped at St Elizabeth's Church. After leaving school, William went to work in one of Manchester's many cotton mills and, by 1914, he was employed as a machine minder.
When he enlisted, William joined the newly formed 12th Battalion of the Fusiliers. On 4 September, he went overseas as one of approximately 30,000 troops that made up the British 22nd Division. The Division concentrated in France around Flesselles, but their stay in France was to be brief. By the end of October, the Division was re-assigned to the Salonika front in northern Greece, where they would face the Bulgarian army. William arrived in Greece probably on 6 November.
In the middle of September 1916, the Battalion was at Smol, near the Macedonian town of Macuovo (Machukova). On the 13th, the Fusiliers were kept busy carrying ammunition forward in preparation for an attack the next day. They would support a major assault by Serbian forces by attacking the Bulgarian Army positions on a nearby hill called the Piton des Mitrailleuses.
The Battalion's War Diary records that the Allied artillery barrage lifted at 2am on the 14th and the men advanced. "There was a fair amount of opposition from rifle and machine guns but the position was captured after a short time. Captain Wormald was killed almost as soon as the assault began.....We had very few casualties up to this period. There was very little time left before daylight whilst most of the men were consolidating the position, the remainder were busy bombing dug-outs with great success - a number of prisoners were taken and others who would not come out were killed."
About 7.30am, the enemy artillery started to shell the Fusilers and this increased "in fury" as the day went on. "About 14.00, a report was received that the enemy was massing behind The Dome - a position which overlooked the one we held and the order was given to man the front line trenches. The artillery fire of the enemy was at its worst; we suffered considerably. On the Piton des Mitrailleuses, our men were driven back but a counter-attack regained the trench. On the right, we held the line. About 16.00, we withdrew our men to the south west side of the hill until the order to retire was received."
The Battalion had suffered 190 casualties - dead, wounded or missing. Another local man, Stanley Warburton, was also killed. Neither have a known grave.