Rank: Private
Number: 55237
Unit: 14th Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 15 June 1917
Age: 34
Cemetery: Bard Cottage Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium

William Darbyshire had been born at Pilkington, Lancashire and had lived in Heaton Mersey in Stockport, before his marriage. He had been married for 3 years and lived with his wife, Beatrice and their two children, at 9 Newboult Road, Cheadle. He is possibly the man of this name who, in 1914, married Beatrice Haims (or Haines) in Wells, Somerset. William worked as a warehouseman at Messrs Wilson & Knowles, Manchester and regularly attended the parish church.

He enlisted in June 1916, in Stockport and left for the front around January 1917. William would have spent the following months serving tours of duty in the front line trenches, alternating with support duties in reserve. He would never see major action although death would never be far away. From 1 February until the end of May, 39 soldiers of the 14th died. Most will have been killed by enemy artillery fire.

At the beginning of June 1917, the Battalion was in training. The War Diary notes that on the 3rd, there were church parades and the rest of the day was a holiday. On the 5th, the morning was spent on kit inspections and bathing; during the afternoon there was a rifle fire exercise and, at 8pm, then men marched to the training area to practice an advance in the dark. Several days more training followed, including dealing with a gas attack.

On the 10th, the Battalion moved by train to Poperinghe in the Ypres Salient. Two days later, they moved near to the front line at Vlamertinghe, going into the support trenches at a place known as Canal Bank. For the next few days, William was working on digging a new trench and deepening the existing ones. . Throughout this time, there was very heavy enemy shelling of the trenches. William was killed by a shell explosion whilst working as a stretcher bearer, no doubt taking injured back to the rear lines. He was one of five killed that day

His commanding officer wrote to Beatrice "It may be of some consolation to you to know that he died instantaneously and suffered no pain. His willingness and ambition to do well had made him popular in his battalion and his loss will be keenly felt by all with whom he came into contact." 

(Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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