William Watts DUCKWORTH
Rank: Sapper
Number: 104468
Unit: 9th Field Company ROYAL ENGINEERS
Date of Death: 23 October 1916
Age: 34
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

William was the son of John Duckworth. His mother had died by the time of the 1901 Census. John had remarried to Mary and they had two young children - George and Marcia. The family home was at 11 Clayton Street, Stockport. William, then 19, worked in a cotton mill in Manchester, first as a doffer and then as a more skilled doubler. In 1904, he married his fiancée, Charlotte Clarke. They lived at 28 Cain Street, Edgeley and had five children together.

The local newspaper reported that William enlisted into the army on 4 August 1914 - the day War was declared. However, this may have been journalistic licence (or simply an error) as his army service number dates from much later and it is probable that William had only been on active service for a short while before he was killed.

The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July and the British army had made very slow progress in the following weeks. But there had been successful attacks and the role of the Engineers was to help with the consolidation of the gains - constructing strongpoints and new dug-outs in the captured trenches. Although William had been trained to fight and will have been issued with a rifle, it's unlikely that he ever used it. It was, however, still dangerous work as the following letter from his officer indicates "Your husband was killed by a shell when we were on our way back from our work. It was done in No Man's Land. He died very shortly after receiving his wound and apparently suffered no pain as he remained unconscious to the last. Your husband was a true and constant soldier and beloved of every member of my section and we were all truly sorry about him. He will be much missed in my section."

It is likely that it was too dangerous for William's comrades to try and bring his body back to the safety of the British trenhces. It was never recovered and identified and his name is now one of over 72000 inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to those killed during the Battle who have no known grave.

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