Image of Gladstone Aspinall from The Mossley and Saddleworth Reporter 12.6.1915
(L to R) 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; Allied Victory Medal
William (although he always called himself ‘Gladstone’) was born in late 1884 or early 1885 in Mossley. His father was called George and his mother was Mary Helen and they married in June 1877. He was one of seven children, but five died in infancy. His elder surviving sister Elizabeth Ann was born in 1880.
In 1891 the family were living at 3 Back Street, Mossley. In 1900 Gladstone’s father died and by 1901 Gladstone and his now widowed mother were lodging with the McDermott family at No. 4, off Wyre Street, Mossley. By 1911 Gladstone and his mother were living at 48 Stamford Street, Mossley. He is recorded as being a bricklayer’s apprentice.
Gladstone’s Army service number was 8799. This suggests he joined the Army in early 1903 when he was aged 18 or 19. He enlisted in Fleetwood, near Blackpool. Soldiers enlisted for seven years’ service in the Regular Army, then spent five years in the Reserve, which meant they could be called back to the Army in an emergency. Gladstone would be a Reservist until early 1915.
The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 meant that Reservists were called up. At this time Gladstone’s mother lived on Lees Road, Mossley. A newspaper article published after his death stated that before the war he worked at Waterton Mill, Mossley for Mr J Hamer.
He was called up on the 4th August 1914 and left for camp at Cleethorpes on the 7th August. Gladstone was sent to France on the 9th November. He was one of the men sent to reinforce the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment after it had taken heavy casualties in the fighting of the previous three months.
The 2nd Battalion was based near the town of Ypres in Belgium. Beginning in April 1915 they took part in a major offensive called the Second Battle of Ypres. During this battle Gladstone was wounded. He could not be saved and he died on the 31st May 1915. He was 30 years old. He left his mother and sister who still lived on Lees Road, Mossley.
The Mossley and Saddleworth Reporter dated 12 June reported his death with the headline of “PRIVATE W E G ASPINALL KILLED IN ACTION”.
Private James Kenworthy, also of the 2nd Battalion and from Mossley was friends with Private Aspinall. The following extract of his letter was printed in The Reporter:
June 2nd: I have lost a chum, Private Aspinall, he got hit on the 31st May when he was in the woods and he died on 2nd June 1915. He hails from Mossley. He was a merry fellow. I stayed with him in the hospital as long as they would let me. We had been talking about the times we would have together when we got back to Mossley. We have just laid him to rest and the parson said a short service over his grave this afternoon. Roll on peace.
Gladstone is buried alongside 91 other men of the 2nd Battalion who died in the fighting during Second Ypres. They lie in Chester Farm Cemetery in Belgium. His modern grave reference is I. C. 9A.
Gladstone's medals were presented to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in 1997. As well as his 1914 Star and Allied Victory Medal Gladstone was also awarded the British War Medal for his Army service.