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Almost nothing is known about William’s life. Regimental records, published after the War, suggest he was born in Reddish and was living there when he enlisted into the army at Manchester. The 1901 Census only lists one person born in Reddish who was of an appropriate age to serve during the War. This young man, then aged 17, was living in Atherton, Lancashire, working as a coal carter and was probably the future soldier.

On 9 April 1918, the German Army launched the second phase of it’s spring offensives in what would become known as the Battles of the Lys. The fighting would continue all month. On the 16th, the 1st Battalion of the Loyals moved into the front line near La Bassee Canal (scene of fierce fighting at the Battle of Loos in 1915). They relieved a Battalion of Lancashire Fusiliers and were in position by 3.55pm. The next day was generally quiet.

The Battalion War Diary records that “at 4.15am, the enemy commenced to bombard the whole of the Divisional front. The barrage became intense and at 8.10 the enemy attacked from the north, filtering into our trenches under cover of the high ground at Givenchy. He succeeded in reaching and occupying the main line of resistance before counter measures could be taken. Vigorous counter attacks by “C” and “D” Companies eventually succeeded in ejecting the enemy from our main line and by 11am he was only holding a few isolated posts in our outpost line.”

During the 19th there was some sniping, probably from the Germans now holding the shell craters which had formed the outpost line. The next day, the 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment attacked the Germans holding the craters and a small section of the front line. This was successful and the Germans retreated back to their own line. The remaining period of the tour of duty was relatively quiet and the men concentrated on repairing and improving the defences.

The War Diary does not give a daily account of casualties but records that, during the period in the front line, 46 men were killed, 105 wounded and 189 were missing (and probably dead). Sometime during this period, William was wounded. He will have received treatment, just behind the front line, from the Battalion’s own medical officer, but this will have been little more than first aid. He will then have started to travel down the casualty evacuation chain. He will, no doubt, have been treated by surgeons at a field hospital (Casualty Clearing Station). His condition will have been stabilised and any vital surgery carried out. He will then have been further evacuated to permanent hospital facilities, on the Channel coast, at Etaples, where he died.

Photo taken April 2018

William MASON
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 13780
Unit: 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 26 April 1918
Age: 34
Cemetery: Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

This article has been reproduced with kind permission from the Stockport 1914-18 website.


Paul McCormick
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