William was born in the parish of St Mary’s C of E Church, Stockport and lived all his life in the town until he enlisted into the army in September 1914.
He lived with his wife and child at 28 Victoria Road and had worked as a cotton doubler at Spur Mill Reddish. After army training he went overseas with the 10th Battalion in September 1915.
On 4 May 1916, William and his mates were in trenches near Mont-St-Eloi, a small village a few kilometres north of the French town of Arras. The Battalion’s War Diary records “Slight bombing activity in outpost line during the early morning for about and hour, 2am – 3am. Small aerial torpedoes were used by the enemy for between two or three hours during morning and afternoon, though effect of these is very local, we unfortunately had five casualties.”
William was one of the casualties but had not been killed by the torpedoes, He had been shot by a German sniper. Also fatally wounded were two other local men, Fred Holt and Charles Horbury.
William’s platoon officer wrote to Mrs Ashton “He died as a good soldier should, doing his duty cheerfully and well. As my platoon sergeant, he always did his work well, smoothly and thoroughly. He was a brave, cool and resourceful man and I shall miss his help more than I can say.” William was buried not far behind the front line and the burial service was conducted by the Wesleyan chaplain.
William’s younger brother, Bernard, would be killed in action on 28 June, whilst serving with the artillery.