William was born within the parish of St Paul's C of E Church, Portwood, Stockport. By the time of the Great War, he had married and lived with his wife and child at 53 Stafford Street. He worked for Stockport Corporation Gasworks Department until he enlisted in December 1914. After training, he will have gone overseas with the newly formed Battalion, in September 1915.
William quickly became a specialist grenade (bomb) thrower. On 15 May 1916, he and his comrades were in front line trenches at a position known to the British as Zouave Valley (near the village of Souchez, 12 kilometres north of the French town of Arras). The Cheshires had been in this sector for several weeks and the fighting had been characterised by both sides conducting small scale raids on the trenches opposite. Engineers had tunnelled under No Man's Land and had placed mines under the German front line. As the mines were exploded the Cheshires immediately rushed forward to occupy the rear lip of the crater that had been created. This gave them a position of superiority over the neighbouring German trenches. However, it was not to last long. The Battalion's War Diary describes what happened:-
"The enemy placed a very heavy barrage on our trenches and advanced post which was completely knocked out. At 8.30pm, simultaneous with mine explosions, the enemy made a strong attack on our lip of the crater, assaulting our flanks and also coming directly across the crater. This attack was repeated and continual attempts were made by the enemy to bomb us out of our position. All attempts were beaten back with loss to the enemy and the bombing attack ceased about 11.15pm., after that hour the enemy were evidently nervous and bombs were thrown carelessly into the crater for some time. Owing to the strong position we held on the lip and the good trench, casualties were only one killed and one wounded. At 10pm, our supply of bombs were exhausted and two men were sent back repeatedly under heavy fire to obtain bombs. The situation became critical at (illegible) for lack of bombs but was saved by the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles who brought up 200 bombs. The position was taken over by 2nd RIR at 2am."
During this period 4 members of the Battalion were killed and another 14 wounded. The reference to the men at the crater using "bombs" suggests that William may be the soldier mentioned as being killed. His friend, Private A Horton, wrote to Mrs Clegg saying that he had been with William when he was hit. "He did not suffer as he died instantly".