Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

William Kelly

William Kelly :

William Kelly : Distinguished Conduct Medal

Distinguished Conduct Medal

William was born in Bootle, near Liverpool. We don't know anything about his early life or family.

He joined the Manchester Regiment in late 1904 or early 1905 and was given the service number 101. We don't know much about his service.

In August 1905 he was serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment on Guernsey or Alderney, in the Channel Islands. He must have taken to Army life, because on the 24th he extended his service so that he would serve for a total of 8 years.

At some point during the next 10 years William was transferred to the 1st Battalion in India. He was serving with them when the First World War broke out in early August 1914. The 1st Battalion quickly mobilised and set sail for Europe on the 27th August. They arrived in France on the 26th September and after another month they were in combat around Festubert.

Conditions on the front line during the early part of the war were bad. It was wet, cold and dangerous, and for soldiers used to the heat of India things must have been even worse. The 1st Battalion took part in heavy fighting around Festubert and Givenchy. They lost many soldiers trying to stop the German attacks, and then trying to recapture the territory lost.

On the 12th March 1915 William took part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. During this battle William was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for an act of great bravery. His citation was published in the London Gazette on the 3rd June:

For conspicuous gallantry, coolness and resource at Neuve Chapelle on 12th March 1915, when he took charge of a section in the advance to occupy a trench and handled the men with ability. Private Kelly subsequently rescued wounded men under heavy fire.

Starting in late April the 1st Battalion took part in the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium. They took heavy casualties again before the attack ended during May. The rest of 1915 was much quieter, although conditions in the trenches were still difficult and dangerous.

After taking more casualties in the Battle of Loos during September the 1st Battalion was withdrawn from the front on the 10th November. It was ordered to sail for Mesopotamia, now called Iraq.

William and the 1st Battalion arrived in Basra on the 8th January 1916. They took part in attempts to relieve the British forces trapped in Kut al Amara. One of these attempts took place on the 8th March, when they attempted to capture the Dujeilan Redoubt from the Turks. They captured the position, but took heavy casualties and were forced to retreat when the Turks counterattacked.

William was one of the men killed on this day. The Army never found his grave, so he is one of 40,682 men whose names are listed on the Basra Memorial in Iraq. His name is on Panel 31 or 64. As of 2013 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is not able to maintain this memorial because of the political situation in Iraq. They have produced a Roll of Honour listing all these names and put it on display at their Head Office on Marlow Road in Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 7DX.

William's medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in 1982. As well as his Distinguished Conduct Medal, he was also awarded the 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914', the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council