George and Emma Bowers married at St Thomas' Church, Stockport in 1887, living first at 47 Warren Road. In 1901, when the Census was taken, they had moved to 88 Northgate Street and now had four children - Mary Jane (then 12), William (9), Fred (7) and Frank (4). George was a finisher in a hatworks and, after finishing school, William also went to work in the industry. When he enlisted in Manchester, on 5 September 1914, he was working for Woolfenden Ltd in Denton.
His enlistment papers show him to have been 5' 5" tall - about average for those days - and weighing 112 pounds. He had a sallow complexion, hazel eyes and dark hair. William had given his religious denomination as Church of England. He was originally posted to the 12th Battalion of the King's Regiment and, whilst still in training, he was admitted to Connaught Hospital, Aldershot with gonorrhoea. He was in hospital between 1 and 11 December.
On 24 May 1915, he was fined six days pay for being absent without leave and, on 24 July, he finally went overseas to France and it is thought this may be when he was transferred to the 11th Battalion.
In January 1916, the Battalion was designated to be Pioneers. These were fighting troops but whose main job was in the building of strongpoints and other construction work. On 4 January, the men were working on trenches and tramways near Elverdinghe (to the north west of Ypres). As they were working, William was wounded by shrapnel in the right leg and thigh. He was treated at 62nd Field Ambulance and, the following day, transferred to the field hospital at 2nd London Casualty Clearing Station. On the 11th, he was moved to Lahore British Military Hospital at Calais and, on the 16th, he was evacuated to England aboard the Hospital Ship Newhaven.
He spent more time in hospital and, in June 1916, was moved to a convalescent hospital in Clacton on sea before returning to 11th King's on 8 September 1916. A week later he would be dead.
On 13 September, "A", "C" and "D" Companies were working on improving defences and roadways in the vicinity of Delville Wood in the south of the Somme battlefield. "B" Company undertook fatigues for the Royal Engineers. The next day, they rested at nearby Fricourt Wood.
At 4am on the 15th, the Battalion moved back to the south of the battlefield and were improving the road between Bernafray Wood and Longueval. To the north of them, a major British attack was under way which was involving the use of tanks for the first time. Their main tasks would be to fill in shell holes to make the road passable. Although not in the immediate front line, the Battalion was well within range of the enemy artillery and the unit's War Diary records that "Lt Hill and 2nd Lt Bowman were wounded and 13 Other Ranks killed, 39 wounded admitted to hospital and 8 wounded at duty".
William was one of the men killed. His sergeant later wrote "Death was instantaneous; no suffering. I helped to bury him near where he fell and a cross was erected. He proved himself a good and efficient soldier. The whole company join in sending you their heartfelt sympathy and trust you will receive strength to bear this great blow." Over the remaining two years of war, the location of William's grave became lost and his name is now inscribed on the Memorial to the Missing.
In its edition of 13 September 1917, the Stockport Express published an "in memoriam" notice from his parents, brothers and sisters at 51 Penny Lane. It included the words "No morning dawns, no night returns, but we think of thee". There was another notice from Mr & Mrs Bowden and his "old pal" Willie of 19 Orphanage Street.
It's known that Frank Aspinall served on HMS Victory X at Portsmouth (service number ABJ49981). Fred Aspinall served in the Royal Field Artillery. Both are believed to have survived the War. When the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information in the early 1920s, Mr & Mrs Aspinall were living at 13 Reddish Road, South Reddish