Photograph of William in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MRP/5C/021
(L to R) British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasps 'Iraq', 'N. W. Persia'; India General Service Medal with clasp 'Burma 1930-32'; Long Service and Good Conduct Medal
William was born on the 27th March 1896 in Aldershot, Hampshire. We don't know anything about his family or his early life.
By the time he was 14 William had been taught to play at least one musical instrument. The Army recruited boys from this age to serve as drummers, buglers and trumpeters. We don't know William's circumstances, but this must have seemed like a good opportunity to him, and he joined the Manchester Regiment on the 6th April 1910 in Dover, Kent. He was given the service number 1742.
We don't know much about William's early service. He was classed as a 'Boy' until his 18th birthday. During this time he would have had music lessons and a more general education, as well as military training. He was kept under stricter supervision than adult soldiers.
We believe William continued to serve as a musician in one of the Regiment's bands after he turned 18, although we don't know which. The First World War broke out in August 1914. William was sent to the front lines in France during 1916, and he seems to have served there until after the end of the war in November 1918. He returned to the UK during 1919.
We don't know which battalion William joined, so we can't say for certain where he served. Once the war was over the Army reduced to its pre-war size. As a Regular soldier, William's career would continue.
On the 13th October 1919 the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Manchester Regiment found themselves in Aldershot together. When the 2nd Battalion left the UK for Mesopotamia in February 1920 William went with them.
Between April and July the Battalion was based in Tikrit. Most of the soldiers in Iraq were inexperienced and were not fully trained on all the Battalion's weaponry. This made veterans of the First World War like William invaluable. Towards the end of May C Company and the Battalion Band and Drums 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. We don't know which group William belonged to. 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. He received a new service number at around this time: 3512343.
We know that William was a member of the Band and Drums Cricket team during this period. The team won the 2nd Battalion Cricket Shield in 1921-22 and 1922-23.
By June 1923 the battalion had moved to Jubbulpore, now Jabalpur. William had been promoted twice and held the rank of Corporal. He was acting as a Lance Sergeant at this time. He was still a member of the Band.
The 2nd Battalion celebrated its centenary on the 25th March 1924, in Jubbulpore. William was present for the week of celebrations, which included 3 days holiday for the entire Battalion.
In April 1925 William and the 2nd Battalion moved to Rangoon in Burma, remaining there until early 1928. On the 26th September of that year William was appointed Band Sergeant. This made him the highest ranking player in the Band, and the second most senior soldier after the Bandmaster, who conducted. As a member of the Band, William was assigned to Headquarters Wing of the battalion.
After leaving Rangoon the battalion sailed up the Irrawaddy River to reach their new posting, Maymyo in the Burmese jungle. Here, at a parade on the 8th October 1929, William was presented with his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal by Lieutenant Colonel John Heelis. He had commanded the battalion since 1925, and this was his final parade before retiring. John's medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection.
John told the battalion that William 'has an excellent record, and is in addition a very good sportsman, and I am very glad to be able to present this medal to him'.
Less than a month later, on the 4th November, William married Bertha Florence Trafford at Christ Church in Rangoon. We don't know whether they had any children. Later that month the 2nd Battalion left Burma for Secunderabad in India.
In December 1930 a rebellion broke out in several regions of Burma. The authorities requested more troops from India to help restore control, so William and the 2nd Battalion returned to the country in June 1931. They took part in patrols of the jungle and villages in their allotted area until the rebellion was brought to an end by early 1932. William returned to Secunderabad in early February.
The 2nd Battalion moved to Khartoum in Sudan during October 1932, and returned to the UK on the 13th December 1933. They were stationed in Strensall near York for the rest of William's career.
This career came to an end on the 11th January 1936. William was discharged with the rank of Sergeant.
William and Bertha went to live in the Manchester area. Just over 2 weeks after his discharge from the Regular Army William joined the Territorial Army (TA). He enlisted in the 6/7th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, based in the Hulme area of the city. Members of the TA lived as civilians, and trained as soldiers during evenings and weekends.
In mid 1936 the Manchester Regiment Gazette reported that William was 'doing very well in civilian life [although they didn't say what he was doing] and can be seen with the 6/7th Battalion complete with Sam Browne'. A Sam Browne is a belt worn by Army officers and Warrant Officers. This suggests that William held a higher rank in the TA that he had in the Regular Army. Bandmasters were Warrant Officers as well.
In December 1936 the 6/7th Battalion fell victim to an Army reform. It lost its infantry role and became the 65th (Manchester Regiment) Anti-Aircraft Brigade of the Royal Artillery. Its job now was to protect the Manchester area from air attack. William stayed with his new unit, although we don't know for how long or whether he saw service in the Second World War.
As well as his TA service, William stayed in touch with his Regular Army comrades. He joined the Manchester Regiment Old Comrades Association whilst he was still serving, and attended a number of their reunions. He was at the last Reunion dinner before the outbreak of the Second World War, in January 1939, and one of the first after its end, in March 1947. We know he was also on parade in Manchester on Remembrance Sunday in November 1952.
By 1961 William had 'no occupation', although we don't know whether he was unemployed or retired. He lived at 154 Canterbury Road in Davyhulme, Manchester. Sadly we know this because Bertha died on the 14th March in Hope Hospital, Salford. She was 73.
The rest of William's life remains a mystery. We believe he died in Stockport at the age of 94 in March 1990.
William's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in November 1999.