Although his service records are not available, his Medal Index Card shows that he arrived in France as part of the 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment on 4th October 1914.
In 1917, now promoted to Sergeant and part of D company of the 8th Battalion, he was involved in the first battle of Passchendaele on 12th October. His actions on the day led to him being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.)
His citation in the London Gazette of 4th March 1918 reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He took command of his company in the attack when all the officers became casualties, and led his men with great dash and judgement. When the objective had been captured he cleared the ground in front of the company of enemy snipers who were inflicting heavy casualties. He cleared three shell holes of snipers and rushed another single handed, putting both occupants out of action. He continued to command the company for two days with splendid skill and resource, and carried out a difficult relief successfully.”
The entry in the battalion’s war diary for the day reveals that casualties during the attack were 7 officers and 150 other ranks, and that it was impossible to communicate with companies until 9.00am on the 13th October due to enemy sniper fire. The conditions were described as being bitterly cold with heavy rain before the 5.25am launch of the attack.
We know little more about William’s war service except that at some point he was taken prisoner. It is possible that this happened during the German Spring offensive in 1918.
William was one of more than 900 returned Prisoners of War that were honoured at a dinner hosted by the Express & Star and Mr. J B Dumbell’s Comfort Fund at the Baths Assembly Rooms. The event was held on the evenings of 18th and 19th March 1919, and a copy of the programme for the event is available at the Archives.
After the war William worked on the railways, he died in December 1971.