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William Edward Butler was born in Warwickshire in 1888.

Prior to enlisting in the Army on 5th September 1914, William worked as a cotton weaver at Horrockses Mill. He had married to Sarah Wray in 1911, and had no previous military service. They lived together at 46 Egan Street, Preston with their son William Henry (born 28th April 1914).

William was posted into ‘A’ Company of the 10th (Service) Battalion and was given the service number 13470.

On 16th July 1915, a fortnight before the Battalion sailed for France, William was appointed Lance Corporal.

In August 1916, William sustained a gunshot wound to the right thigh. This was following a trench raid at Bazentin le Petit.

bazentin

 

Due to heavy losses within the Battalion in late 1916 and early 1917, William was promoted to Corporal in November 1916, and to Serjeant in February 1917 – in both cases to complete the establishment.

13470 SGT WILLIAM EDWARD BUTLER 10TH BN

 

On 11th April 1917, at Arras, Serjeant William Edward Butler was killed in action.

Arras – 10th / 11th April 1917

During the night, orders were received that the L.N.Lancs were to continue the advance and attack at 05:00hrs going through East Lancs and attacking the trenches, having as our objective the ‘Green Line’ and in particular the wood (Tilloy).

Arras – 11th April 1917 – 05:00hrs

The Battalion having previously got into position for such advance, almost immediately came into full view of the enemy and was met with very heavy machine gun and shell fire.

Arras – 11th April 1917 – 05:30hrs

We received orders not to advance until barrage opened. By this time, we had carried by assault, the enemy trench in front (east of Sunken Road) and were establishing ourselves in shell holes 100 yards further east.

It was at this time that Captain Peskett, 2nd Lieutenant Ibbotson and  2nd Lieutenant Goodman were killed.

During this assault, we suffered very heavy casualties and were being enfiladed from Monchy Le Preux. The right flank, perceiving that they were in the air and appreciating the fact that if it remained as such, there was a likelihood of their being outflanked, boldly determined to risk all and assaulted a small trench running southwards from Cambrai Road in the direction of Guemappe and about 30 yards east of Sunken road before mentioned.

A tank apparently also appreciating the situation in a like manner, came to their aid.

On obtaining possession of the trench, Corporal Leonard and Lance Corporal R. Dinwoodie and six men were all that was left. These eight men boldly bombed along the trench southward killing more than a dozen Bosche, taking three prisoners and found themselves in complete possession. To their almost surprise, seven Bosche officers miraculously appeared apparently from nowhere. This was not a time to stand on ceremony, whereupon the officers suffered the same fate as their men. Two machine guns were captured in this gallant assault, but as the new garrison were so weak in numbers and fearing that they might eventually be in their turn evicted, they blew them up.

These men retained possession of this trench as did also Captain Gravett, ably assisted by Second Lieutenant Deacon (being the only two officers now left) and CSM Webster with sixty men, made themselves masters of the situation of the corresponding trench running northwards from the Cambrai Road. Here the garrison remained throughout the day, although there were signs of the enemy massing for a counter attack from the south.

It was about this time that Second Lieutenant Parker died after being badly wounded.

The Commanding Officer and Adjutant, having collected enroute stragglers of all Battalions to the number of about fifty, arrived on the scene. By this time, and with the assistance of the these reinforcements, Captain Gravett was the complete master of the situation. From this time onwards, reinforcements of officers and men from other Battalions kept arriving.

Arras – 11th April 1917 – 13:50hrs

The Commanding Officer sent in a report to the General informing him that the situation had improved considerably and he had made plans for bombing parties to proceed along both sides the Cambrai Road and to attack the enemy trench after nightfall, which was about 300 yards in front of our line, as it was not deemed advisable at the moment to advance further, knowing full well that we were well in advance of all troops on our right and left, besides which in our present position we had command of a good field of view.

During this period Second Lieutenant Deacon received two wounds, but would not desert his Captain or his men.

About three hours after entering the trench, some of the 3rd Dragoon Guards, acting as Infantry, came up on their left. This gave them some breathing space.

During this time men of the East Lancs and 10th L.N.Lancs oozed from shell holes and thickened the line of fire to our front line and could also enfilade the enemy on our right where the troops on that flank would advance further.

Arras – 11th April 1917 – 17:00hrs

We received orders that we would be relieved at 18:30hrs and immediately informed Captain Gravett to hold himself in readiness to be relieved. This relief was not completed until 01:00hrs. The men being in a very exhausted condition withdrew to Tilloy where we spent the remainder of the night.

Tilloy Wood – 12th April 1917 – 08:00hrs

Roll Call. Only a few of the brave fellows left. Our loses were estimated at 13 Officers and 286 men. That is over 60% of our fighting strength.

William Butler, along with ten other LNL men that died the same day, were buried at the Windmill British Cemetery, Monchy-Le-Preux.

Rank: Serjeant
Service No: 13470
Date of Death: 11/04/1917
Age: 28
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 10th Bn.
Cemetery: WINDMILL BRITISH CEMETERY, MONCHY-LE-PREUX,

Paul McCormick
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Paul McCormick

Paul McCormick is the creator and administrator for the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment website. Since 2010 he has been researching the soldiers that served during the First World War and sharing their stories on his website. You can contact Paul through the website 'Contact Me' page or on Twitter and Facebook.
Paul McCormick
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