Photograph of William in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: Acc3274
(L to R) 1939-45 Star; Africa Star with clasp '1st Army'; Italy Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal; Efficiency Medal; Unknown clasps '1967', '1968'
We don't know anything about William's family or early life.
He had joined the 9th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment by January 1934, although we don't know exactly when. His service number was 3526289. This was a unit of the Territorial Army (TA), so William will have kept his civilian job and trained as a soldier during the weekend and at an annual camp. They were based in Ashton-under-Lyne. He played the trombone in the Battalion Band; this photograph of him was most likely taken at one of the 2 week long camps.
During 1939 war with Germany began to seem inevitable. The TA was called into service on the 2nd September, the day before war was declared. William was ordered to 'attend at The Armoury, Old Street' in Ashton 'not later than 8:30am'.
After training in the UK William and the 9th Battalion were sent to France in April 1940 to defend against an expected German invasion. This period was known as the 'Phoney War' due to the large armies, and the lack of fighting.
The Germans invaded France and Belgium on the 10th May 1940. Despite the best efforts of British and French forces they were quickly overwhelmed and forced back to the Channel coast. Between the 27th May and the 4th June most of the British forces were evacuated from the town of Dunkirk.
After Dunkirk the British Army quickly reorganised itself. The 9th Battalion was reconstructed, but William would no longer be a part of it. On the 9th August 1940 he was transferred to the 7th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. This unit became the 87th Anti Tank Regiment of the Royal Artillery in October 1941.
We believe William served with the 87th Regiment in North Africa as a member of the British 1st Army. The 1st Army led the invasion of Algeria during November 1942, and fought there and in Tunisia until the Germans surrendered on the 13th May 1943.
After this we believe William stayed with the 87th Regiment as they took part in the Italian Campaign. They were transferred to the 8th Army and landed in Italy during September 1943. At some point during the war the 87th Regiment replaced their Ordnance Quick-Firing 6 pounder Anti Tank guns with the much more powerful 17 pounder.
William's Efficiency Medal was awarded for 12 years in the TA, although he could count wartime service twice. We don't know when it was awarded, but William is named as a Gunner in the Royal Artillery on it.
By 1947 William had been demobilised from the Army. At the time he lived at 85 Kenworthy Street in Stalybridge, which was then a part of Cheshire and is now in Tameside. Although we believe William remained a keen trombone player for the rest of his life we don't know anything else about him.
William's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in March 2007. The '1967' and '1968' clasps are not military awards. We don't know where they come from, although they look similar to those awarded with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents Safe Driving Medal.