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William Hanlon was born in Preston in 1883 the son of John Hanlon and Margaret Ann Bolton. His parents were married at the Holy Trinity Church in Preston on 22 April, 1878. William had three brothers and three sisters; James (1878), Alice (1882), Thomas (1880), John (1890) and twins Mary and Susan (1894).

In 1901 the family were living at 27 Lodge Street East in Preston. William`s father John was an Iron Dresser by trade and William and his older siblings were all working in a local cotton mill.

William`s mother Margaret Ann died in 1909 and when the 1911 Census was taken William`s father had moved to number 8 Birk Street in Preston with his sons Thomas and John and the twins Mary and Susan. Thomas and John were both general labourers and the twins Mary and Susan were both working in the local cotton mill. William was not actually recorded as being at home at the time because he was a patient in the Royal Infirmary in Preston.

William enlisted on 1 September, 1914 at the Preston recruiting office. He confirmed that he was unmarried and had no previous military experience. He was given the service number 12638 and posted to the 10th Battalion. William`s medical inspection report notes him as standing at 5`4” tall and weighing 131lbs. His eyes were brown, his hair dark brown and he had a 38” chest. He named his father John Hanlon of 8 Birk Street in Preston as his next of kin. William informed the medical officer he was 29 years old when in fact he was actually 31. He also confirmed his occupation at the time was an iron dresser.

According to his service papers William managed to land himself in trouble on at least three occasions and it would appear it was mainly due to the odd drink or two.

  • 3/4/15 at Eastbourne – “Whilst on active service drinking and creating a disturbance in the road”. He received 72 hours field punishment for this offence.
  • 4/5/15 at Andover – “Whilst on active service overstaying a pass from 12 midnight on 4/5/15 to 10.30 p.m. on 7/5/15”. His punishment was to be confined to camp for 3 days.
  • 11/7/15 – Windmill Hill – “Whilst on active service 1) Drunk, 2) Insubordination to an N.C.O., 3) Striking and resisting a guard, 4) Breaking away from the guard tent”. His punishment this time was 7 days detention.

There are no further incidents recorded after Windmill Hill and William sailed for France with the 10th (Service) Battalion on 31 July, 1915 arriving in Boulogne in the early hours of the following morning.

His service papers note that he married Isabella Hatch in the Registry Office in Preston on 24 February, 1916. There is no mention of him being injured and being sent back to England so he may have been allowed some home leave in early 1916.

Unfortunately on the 15 November, 1916, during the Battle of Ancre in an advance towards Munich Trench, William was killed probably as a result of the inaccurate British artillery barrage.

15th November 1916

This morning at 02:00hrs the Battalion was ordered up to the front line trenches. At 08:30hrs the Battalion was formed up in artillery formation and with the 51st Division on the right, and the 8th East Lancs on the left we advanced to a German line known as the Munich Trench.

Our own barrage was intense, but very inaccurate – causing a great many casualties. By 13:00hrs reports came in that we had failed to gain a footing in Munich Trench; our own barrage killed and wounded so many of our men.

Amongst those killed; Capt. Chew, Lieut Couper, Lieut Jude, 2nd Lieut Bennett, 2nd Lieut Stainer, 2nd Lieut Bradbury and 2nd Lieut Andrews. Officers wounded were 2nd Lieut Howarth, 2nd Lieut Beastall, 2nd Lieut Baud, 2nd Lieut McNamara and approximately 170 Other Ranks.

Isabella was informed of the death of her husband and the following report appeared later in the Preston Guardian.


William and Isabella did not have any children so Isabella was awarded a pension of 13s 9d for herself from 4/6/17. She also received and signed for her husband`s three medals, the 1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

William`s body was never recovered from the battlefield so his name is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. He is also remembered on the St. Wilfred`s RC Church War Memorial in Preston.



Rank: Private
Service No: 12638
Date of Death: 15/11/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 10th Bn.

Janet Davis
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