Photograph of William by kind permission of Mr Edward Bruce Warrington
(L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal
Bruce, as he was always known, was born on the 13th September 1894 in Altrincham, Cheshire. His father was called Richard and his mother was Elizabeth Ann. He had an older sister named Marjorie and 2 younger brothers called Stephen and Arthur. The family had lost one other child by 1911, we don't know their name.
Richard worked as a commercial traveller for a soap maker. In 1901 the family lived at 5 Linden Avenue in Altrincham. Ten years later they had moved to 46 Queen's Road in nearby Hale. Elizabeth died on the 25th February 1911 aged 47. When the 1911 Census was taken just over a month later Bruce was working as an apprentice to a milliner, or hatmaker. The family were sufficiently well off to be able to employ a domestic servant, Nellie Taylor.
The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Bruce joined the Army on the 2nd September. He joined the 2nd City Battalion. This was a 'Pals' battalion that was being formed by the men of Manchester so that they could serve together. This became the 17th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and Bruce was assigned to XIV Platoon in D Company. His service number was 8345.
The 17th Battalion trained at Heaton Park in Manchester until April 1915. They then moved to Belton Park near Grantham in Lincolnshire. That September they moved again to Larkhill, Wiltshire, and on the 8th November 1915 Bruce sailed to France.
After he arrived in France Bruce was based in the Couin area until the end of 1915. He then moved to Maricourt and Bray in the first half of 1916. During June the battalion began training to take part in the Somme Offensive, and Bruce will have taken part in the attack on Montauban on the 1st July that began this battle.
The attack was successful, and Montauban was taken. The battalion then began digging in to resist a German counterattack. Although they were heavily shelled, no attack was launched and the battalion was relieved on the morning of the 3rd.
By then over 350 of the 17th Battalion's 900 soldiers who had begun this attack were dead, wounded or missing. The battalion next fought at Trones Wood on the 10th. They successfully captured the wood, but German shelling and counterattacks forced them to withdraw after losing another 200 men killed, wounded or missing.
After receiving reinforcements the battalion attacked the village of Guillemont on the 30th July. They advanced in the face of heavy German rifle and machine gun fire, as well as explosive and gas shells. As casualties increased the advance ground to a halt. The battalion was relieved the next day and left the front line. They had lost almost 280 men killed, wounded or missing.
Bruce was transferred to the King's (Liverpool Regiment) and given the service number 56340. This number tells us that he was transferred in around November or December 1916. We don't know why he was transferred. Bruce's son, also known as Bruce, knows that he was wounded during the war, although not when. Once they had recovered wounded men could be assigned to any unit that needed reinforcements.
We don't know which battalion of the King's Bruce joined, so we can't say for certain where he spent the rest of the war. We do know that he only served with units of the King's. A number of soldiers with service numbers close to Bruce's were assigned to the 14th Battalion in Salonika, Greece. This unit served there until June 1918 when it was sent to France. It was absorbed into the 18th (Lancashire Hussars Yeomanry) Battalion of the King's in August. This then took part in the final Allied offensive that led to the end of the war on the 11th November.
Bruce was demobilised soon after the end of the war and returned to Altrincham. He became a Manufacturer's Agent for a clothing firm based in Manchester. Bruce junior believes the firm was called Maurice Goodchild's.
Between July and September 1924 Bruce married Edith Blanshard in the Bucklow area of Cheshire. Soon after the wedding they moved to Ipswich in Suffolk. They had 3 sons, who were all born there. Frank was born on the 23rd April 1925, Jack on the 8th June 1927 and Edward Bruce on the 6th January 1931.
In Ipswich Bruce continued to work as an agent. 'He travelled over Eastern and Southern England in the course of business'. Sadly Edith and Bruce separated in the mid 1930s, which limited his contact with his children.
During the Second World War Bruce served in the Home Guard, like many of his fellow veterans. Outside of work, he enjoyed football and the horse racing at nearby Newmarket. He also liked solving crossword puzzles and spending time with his friends over a pint at his local pub. This photograph of Bruce was taken outside his local pub during the 1950s.
Bruce continued to live in Ipswich for the rest of his life. Despite smoking a pipe all his life, he died peacefully in bed aged 93 in October 1987. His medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in July 1996.