Photograph of William in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR3/19/3/75
British War Medal
William was born in Leigh, Lancashire in 1896. His father was called Samuel. Samuel owned his own business as a ‘builder and monumental mason’ and William’s mother was Jane (nee Baxter). William had 4 siblings, Hannah, Samuel, Katherine and Ralph.
The First World War broke out in August 1914 and William joined up on 14th September 1914. He was assigned to the Manchester Regiment and given the service number 43737.
William spent at least some of the war with the 5th Battalion Manchester Regiment but most of his time was spent with the 18th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in particular B Company. He fought with them during the attack on Sanctuary Wood that began the Passchendaele Offensive on the 31st July 1917. The 18th Battalion was disbanded in February 1918. We believe William was wounded at least twice.
In 1917 William applied for a commission, receiving an endorsement from Joseph Ashworth the Mayor of Leigh who wrote about William; ‘I think him extremely suitable for such an honour. I have known him intimately for many years. He has always borne an excellent character, is of first class habits, and of the highest integrity. He may be relied upon to exert himself to the utmost under all circumstances to do his duty’. William’s application was unsuccessful. William was discharged from the Army on 1 March 1919.
After the war William was known as ‘big bomber Bill’ to his friends as he had qualified as a ‘bombing instructor’ during the war, using hand grenades known as Mills Bombs as his main weapon against German positions. These could be thrown or fired from the end of his Lee-Enfield rifle. William also attained the rank of Sergeant before being demoted, we believe as a result of an altercation with an officer regarding the treatment of a young soldier who was shell shocked.
William married Hilda Alice Lowe after the war and took over his father’s business as a ‘sculptor and monumental mason’ after attending art college. William and Hilda had a daughter, Janette Elizabeth born in 1943. William and Hilda retired to Anglesey, Wales in 1950 but William moved to Culcheth, Warrington after Hilda’s death in 1963.
By the 1960s William was a member of the 18th Battalion Old Comrades Association (OCA), so he was able to keep in touch with his wartime friends and comrades.
He was one of 38 veterans who went on a trip to the Ypres area between the 29th July and the 4th August 1967 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the attack on Sanctuary Wood. William was responsible for arranging the coach for this trip.
By the late 1970s William was Chairman of the dwindling 18th Battalion OCA. They held their 60th Reunion in 1978 at the Old Wellington Inn in the centre of Manchester. 12 members were present for what was their last official reunion. Their oldest member, Harold Clay, was 93. At this time William lived on Orchard Close in Leigh, near Wigan, Lancashire.
William died on 16 May 1981 and his daughter remembers him as a “wonderful, compassionate man”.
As well as his British War Medal, William was also awarded the Allied Victory Medal for his Army service.