Photograph of William in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR4/20/101
(L to R) Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Defence of Ladysmith', 'Belfast'; King's South Africa Medal with clasps 'South Africa 1901', 'South Africa 1902'; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaves; General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasps 'Iraq', 'N. W. Persia'; Delhi Durbar 1911 Medal
William was born on the 12th February 1878 in Dehradun, northern India. He was named after his father and his mother was Grace Agnes Annette. He had a younger brother named Henry Cyril.
William senior was a Surgeon Major in the Bengal Medical Service when William was born. He had previously served in the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny and the Second Afghan War. He died on the 17th January 1880 aged 52 and is buried in Dean's Grange Cemetery, Dublin.
Grace, William and Henry lived in the UK after his death. They lived at 23 Spencer Road in Bedford in 1891. William attended St Paul's School then entered Emmanuel College at Cambridge University in 1896. We don't know what subject William studied.
We believe William was a member of the Cambridge University Rifle Volunteers and the 4th Volunteer Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment before he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment on the 23rd June 1899.
After training William was sent to join the 1st Battalion in Gibraltar. Tensions between British and Boer settlers in South Africa were rising, and in August 1899 the British Government decided to send the 1st Battalion to South Africa in case war broke out. William sailed to Durban and was stationed in the small town of Ladysmith in Natal when war was declared on the 11th October. The war began badly for the British and by the 30th Ladysmith was under siege.
William and the 1st Battalion fought hard to stop Boer attempts to take the town, and would attack Boer artillery to stop it from shelling their positions. He was slightly wounded on the 7th November. By the end of the siege food was in short supply and disease was widespread. The British relief force reached Ladysmith on the 28th February 1900. William was promoted to Lieutenant just over a month later on the 7th April.
After Ladysmith the British Army tried to force the Boers to face it in battle. They succeeded on the 21st August 1900 at the Battle of Belfast, or Bergendal. William took part in this battle, which lasted until the 27th and ended with the defeat of Boer forces and the capture of their temporary capital, Machadodorp (today called eNtokozweni). The Boers did not surrender; they fought on as guerrillas in small units, so William stayed in South Africa.
There were no battles on the same scale during the rest of the war. Instead William took part in smaller operations intended to restrict the Boer's movements and force them to face British soldiers. This strategy was successful and the war ended on the 31st May 1902.
The 1st Battalion stayed in South Africa until the 10th March 1903, and then sailed to Singapore (then part of the Straits Settlements). William had been promoted to Captain a month earlier on the 5th February. They moved to Secunderabad in India in September 1904.
Later that year William passed a course at the School of Musketry in Bellary, gaining a 'Distinguished' mark. He then spent the period between May 1905 and December 1906 as a Senior Instructor at the School. During 1906 he attended a course held at the Mounted Infantry School in Bangalore before taking up the position of Adjutant there between January and July 1907. Also during that year he was taught to ride by the 13th Hussars.
William then returned to Secunderabad as the Station Staff Officer 1st Class. We don't know what this job entailed. He held it between August 1907 and July 1908. He served as Brigade Major to the 1st Infantry Brigade for the next 10 months. This job involved planning operations and organising the units within the Brigade, one of which was the 1st Battalion.
During October 1908 the 1st Battalion moved south to Kamptee. William was on leave in the UK between August 1908 and February 1909 and did not join them until August when he had finished his time as Brigade Major. He seems to have spent some time with the 1st Battalion during this period, but became a Station Staff Officer on the 15th March 1910. He was a keen amateur actor and ran the 1st Battalion Dramatic Club during their time in Kamptee.
William kept his Staff Officer position when he moved to Jubbulpore (now called Jabalpur) in January 1911. Again we don't know what his responsibilities were. In November 1911 he joined the 1st Battalion in Delhi for the Durbar celebrating the Coronation of King George V as Emperor of India. The 1st Battalion took part in the Durbar itself on the 12th December, and the spectacular military parade on the 14th. It also provided many guards of honour for dignitaries. A total of 100 Delhi Durbar 1911 Medals were allocated to the 1st Battalion, although William has one his name does not appear on the official roll of recipients.
After the Durbar William returned to Jubbulpore. He married Muriel Sylvia Collingwood Townsend there on Christmas Day. They were both keen on amateur dramatics. Their daughter Rosemary would be born on the 25th August 1914.
William spent January 1912 as the Staff Captain in the Jubbulpore Brigade. This was a job similar to Brigade Major, but the focus was on making sure the units in his brigade were kept supplied and equipped, and that their administration was in order. By this time William had learnt several languages: French, Hindustani, Persian and Pashto.
During June 1912 William was sent to Pachmarhi as a Station Staff Officer. He held this job until June 1914 when he was appointed Adjutant to the 1st Battalion of the Bengal-Nagpur Railway Volunteer Rifle Corps. This was a unit made up of Indians who trained in their spare time and carried out local security. He held this job until the end of July 1915 when he left India to join the Army fighting the First World War in France and Belgium.
After being promoted to Major William served as the Second in Command of the 13th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers for a short time. On the 25th September he was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant Colonel and took command of the 10th Battalion of Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own (Yorkshire Regiment), more famously known as the Green Howards.
William led this battalion as it served on the Western Front, being Mentioned in Despatches on the 15th June 1916. They later trained to take part in the Somme Offensive, which began on the 1st July. The 10th Battalion attacked near Fricourt. On the 2nd July William was badly wounded by an exploding shell. He suffered severe crush injuries to his left side when he was buried by the soil the explosion threw up. After time in hospital in France he was evacuated to the UK on the 13th July and given 3 months sick leave.
William recovered slowly. Even in April 1918 he was 'incapable of doing any work, even of the lightest secretarial nature'. As he was still in the Army, but without a job, he was placed on half-pay. He lived with his family at The Manor House in Woodhill Spa, Lincolnshire during his recovery.
By August he was well enough to work as Private Secretary to the General Officer Commanding in Chief Home Forces (General William Robertson) at Horse Guards in London. He held this job until June 1919.
After a time at the Senior Officer's School in Woking William was found to be fit enough to join the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, and went with them to Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in February 1920.
Between April and July the Battalion was based in Tikrit. Towards the end of May C Company and the Battalion Band were detached and sent to the hill station of Karind. This was a small village in what was then called Persia and is now Iran. Most of the soldiers returned to the Battalion after around 6 weeks, but 50 -60 men stayed there until October. William took command of this group in around August. Although a careful guard was kept the camp was never attacked by the local population. This service qualified him for the 'North West Persia' clasp.
William and the 2nd Battalion left Mesopotamia on Boxing Day 1920 and moved to Kamptee in India. Early in 1921 both he and Muriel were bitten by a dog. We can only assume it had a disease of some sort because they both required hospital treatment. That November William was again promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and took command of the 2nd Battalion.
His time in command was mostly peaceful. The 2nd Battalion moved to Jubbulpore in January 1923. They celebrated their centenary on the 25th March 1924. There was a week of celebrations, which included a dinner held in the Officer's Mess that was attended by the Warrant Officers and Sergeants. It was 'the only occasion on record' when this had happened. There was also 3 days holiday for the entire Battalion.
There was still a Jubbulpore Brigade, and as well as leading the 2nd Battalion William was placed in command of it on several occasions. He spent some time in the UK from March 1924, although we don't know how long. He was back in India by January 1925 and occasionally took command of the 21st Indian Infantry Brigade before the 2nd Battalion moved to Rangoon in Burma during April.
William's time in command of the 2nd Battalion ended on the 4th November 1925. He handed over command to John Heelis, whose medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection, and returned to the UK. After another period of half pay he asked to retire because his wartime injuries were getting worse. He left the Army on the 23rd April 1927.
In retirement William attended many Regimental events and was a keen supporter of the Old Comrades Association and the Dinner Club. He took over the Club in 1944 and organised its annual meetings until ill health meant he was forced to resign in 1946.
On the 12th June 1947 William died at 9 Tryon House on Mallord Street in central London. He was 69 years old. He was cremated at Golder's Green 5 days later. William was a 'most capable soldier and a great upholder of the Regiment' who had 'never complained' about his 'considerable pain'.
Muriel continued to be a familiar face at Regimental events in to the 1950's. She had moved to Rome, Italy by 1965. His brother Henry served as a Chaplain in the Army and Royal Air Force during the First World War.
William's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in January 1956.