Like his three older siblings, William had been born in Leeds but had moved to the Manchester area in the 1890s. The 1901 census found William, senior, his wife Annie and the four children living at 27 Claribel Street, Ardwick. By the time of the Great War, they had been living in the Stockport area for some time.
William worked as a vanman for Beeley and Brother a local firm of bakers and confectioners with premises at 72 Church Street, Heaton Norris. On 1 September 1915, he travelled to Chester to enlist in the army. Of course, he could have joined up locally but, presumably, he had a specific intention to join the Cheshire Yeomanry which had its headquarters there. The Yeomanry was the cavalry arm of the Territorial Force and William was issued with 1822 as his service number. He trained at Wrexham and then served with his squadron in Ireland and was there during the "Easter Rising" of 1916. Shortly after this, he was transferred to the Manchesters and went overseas in August 1916 as one of a draft of replacements for casualties from the Battle of the Somme.
On the day he was killed, William and his comrades moved from reserve positions to trenches known as Orchard Alley and Wundt Werk, near the French village of Serre.The Battalion's unpublished history, held by the Regimental Archives, confirms that the German artillery was "fairly active" during the day and there were several casualties. William was one of them.
In the early 1920s, when the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information, the Eley family was living at 11 Brighton Road, Norris Bank, Stockport.