Nothing is known of William's early life, except that regimental records published after the War indicate he had been born in the Stockport area. He worked in the Brinksway cotton mill of John & Georhe Walthew Ltd as a yarn gasser. There were two jobs in a mill called "gasser". One of them worked in the mill "gas room" where the raw cotton was de-fumigated. The other applied gas to finished cotton thread to smooth them. He lived with his wife, two children and mother at 19 Mottram Street.
The 20th Battalion of the Fusiliers was known as the 4th Salford Pals and was formed in March 1915. William's service number is low enough to suggest he was an original recruit and, indeed, he travelled to Salford specifically to enlist. The Battalion was known as a "Bantam Battalion" formed originally entirely of men under the normal army recruiting height of 5' 3", but who were otherwise fit to fight. It can be assumed, therefore, that William was a short man who could find no other opportunity to join up and serve his country.
He will have gone overseas on actve service in early 1916. In the middle of October 1917, the Battalion was enjoying a relatively quiet time in the vicinity of Lempire (about 17 kilometres north west of the French town of St Quentin). They would alternate tours of duty in the front line with periods in the reserve area. On the night of the 19/20th, they started another tour of duty, the Battalion's War Diary noting that the enemy artillery was "exceptionally quiet all night and during the day." The 21st was similarly quiet. On the 22nd, the normal trench routine continued with the men strengthening the various strongpoints along the line. The Diary records that the enemy machine guns were active in the morning. It is possible that this is when William received the wounds from which he died the next day. It is, however, more likely that he was wounded when the Germans shelled the British positions on the 23rd.
William will have received treatment from the Battalion's own medical officer but this would have little more than first. He was then evacuated a few miles behind the lines to one of the several Casualty Clearing Stations (field hospitals) at Tincourt. There, military surgeons would have done all they could to save his life, but without success.