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The son of Jonathan and Harriet Barnsley, William was born in around 1885. They were living at 11 Free Street, Bilston, in 1901, along with William’s siblings Harry and Matilda. William was an iron worker and assistant solder. They were living at No 7B, 11 Greencroft, The Square, Bilston, by 1911, and William was working as a packer.

William enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (number 6484). He was killed in action on 31 August 1916. He is buried at Delville Wood Cemetery in France, and remembered on the Bilston Town Hall Ward Roll of Honour.