Many Stockport families suffered the loss of a son during the War. A much smaller number lost two sons. But the postman’s dreaded visit came three times to 5 Etchells Street, the home of Thomas and Mary Finnerty. William was the first to be killed. The grieving will hardly have been over when, in fairly quick succession in 1917, news came that Martin and Thomas had also been killed.
Thomas Finnerty and Mary Conell had married in a civil ceremony registered at Stockport in the early 1880s. Thomas originated from Ireland and the couple were probably Roman Catholics. In those days, Catholic churches were not licensed for marriages although they almost certainly would have had a wedding ceremony before the civil one. When the 1901 Census was taken, the family was at Etchells Street and there were six children – Mary (then 13), Thomas (10), Martin (8), William (5), Joseph (3) and Ann (5 months).
Nothing is known of William’s early life but, before he enlisted into the army, he was working for Stockport Council’s Cleansing Department. He joined up at Stockport and, like Thomas, was assigned to the artillery. The Battle of the Somme had opened on 1 July 1916 and William’s Brigade will have been in action, bombarding the enemy trenches at Pozieres and Contalmaison. The Brigade’s War Diary, held at the National Archives has scant details of 25 July, reporting only that, as in previous days, there was “severe hostile shelling throughout the day”. William has no known grave and it is probable that he took a direct hit from an enemy shell and there was, literally, nothing left of him to bury.