William was born in Luton the son of Eugene and Elizabeth Foote. His parents are reported to have lived in South Africa, whilst William had been brought up by a Mrs Rowland, 49 King Street East, Stockport. It's not known if she was a relative.
He was a relative of the owners of the well known Sanger's Circus but he had decided not to go into the family business, preferring to serve an engineering apprenticeship at a firm in Bredbury. William's service number indicates he volunteered for the army in August or September 1914. Although he joined up in Stockport, Regimental records note that his address was in Brixton, London at the time. His sister lived in London (and, in the early 1920s, Mr & Mrs Foote had returned from South Africa and were living at 135 Stockwell Park Road, Brixton).
After training, William will have gone overseas with the newly formed 9th Battalion in mid-July 1915.
On 10 September, the Battalion started a tour of duty in the trenches Festubert. The village is about 7 kilometres east of the French town of Bethune.
During the night of 17/18 September, William, another soldier and the platoon commander had gone out into No Man's Land to repair the barbed wire protecting the front of the trench. It was very dark and the other soldier was wounded. A letter says "Willie stooped down to help him and was hit in the head with a bullet. He died, poor boy, instantly, and was buried on Sunday. His commanding sergeant and two of his comrades attended the funeral. A wooden cross has been put over his grave and the commander, who wrote a letter, says he will miss him greatly but that he died doing a difficult duty and doing it well." This letter is probably from Willie's sister to Mrs Rowland, relaying the details of the letter she had received from his sergeant..
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records his date of death as 19 September, but the Sunday (when he was buried) was actually the 18th.