William CROWTHER
Rank: Private
Number: 12935
Unit: 22nd Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 4 October 1917
Age: 21
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

William was the son of James and Sarah and had been born in Heywood, where the 1901 Census records the family as living at 9 Springfield Road. They must have moved to the Stockport area shortly after as William received his education at North Reddish Council School. It must have been a happy time for him as he kept his connection with the School through its Old Scholars Association. He worked locally at the cotton mill of the Broadstone Spinning Ltd, Broadstone Road, Reddish.

William enlisted into the army in Manchester and the local newspaper reported this was in May 1915 (although his service number suggests a much earlier recruitment, dating to the autumn of 1914). The 22nd Battalion was the official title of the seventh of the "Pals Battalions" formed by the Manchester Regiment and some details of their recruitment and training can be found here.

The Third Battle of Ypres is often called Passchendaele, after the village that sat on top of the ridge outside the Belgian town of Ypres and which was an early objective. The battle had started on 31 July 1917 and, in series of hard slogs, the British troops were slowly attacking their way up the slope.

The attack scheduled for 4 October would later be officially designated as the Battle of Broodseinde. British troops would advance up the Broodseinde Ridge on a seven mile frontage, east of the village of Zonnebeke. Nearly 220,000 men would be involved.

The Battalion spent 2 October in dugouts in a railway embankment near Zillebeke Lake and during the evening of the 3rd moved forward to assembly positions in Polygon Wood. They attacked at 6am in conjunction with the 1st South Staffordshires; captured their first objective and moved on to secure their second objective, described in the unpublished history of the Battalion only as the "Blue Line". Neighbouring units had not been as successful in their attacks and this left the Manchesters' flank open to heavy machine gun fire from German troops still occupying a position known as Joiners Rest. There were many casualties and two companies of the 21st Manchesters were ordered forward to support and reinforce them. Together they managed to consolidate the captured position.

At dusk, the Germans could be seen massing ready to counter attack but this was broken up by well directed British artillery fire. The Manchesters held their position until relieved on the 7th. During the attack, they had suffered nearly 300 casualties - dead, wounded or missing. William and another local man, James Swindells, would be part of the final death toll.

   
           
   
     
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