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William Stanley Tonge was born in Farnworth in December 1890. His mother was a cotton weaver named Ellen Tonge who, although married, was listed as the head of the household (31 Brackley Street, Farnworth) when the National Census was taken four months later. Living in the same house was William’s maternal grandmother, Ellen Councill, Attempts to trace his father’s details have been unsuccessful.

William married Ethel (nee Barnes) at St John the Evangelist church in Farnworth on 6th November 1909 and they went on to have at least nine children together.

At the time of the 1911 census the young couple were living at 4 Entwistle Row, Farnworth. The household consisted of William and Ethel, a boarder (probable relation of Ethel) named Thomas Barnes who was 16 years old and working as a bricklayer’s labourer, one-year-old Florence (b. 08/03/1910) and three-week-old Ellen (b. 23/03/1911). William was employed as a coal miner.

A third daughter, Ethel, was born on 25/07/1912 and a forth daughter, Annie, was born on 22/09/1914. Despite the recent birth of Annie, the following month William enlisted in the Army at Farnworth on 14th October 1914 to do his bit. He was 23 years 300 days old and in the intervening years they had moved to 92 Albert Road, also in Farnworth, which was the address he provided to the Army, along with Ethel’s name, as that of his legal next of kin.

Prior to this, he had no previous military service and here joined the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 17112.

At his enlistment medical, the officer recorded that William stood 5ft 5in tall, weighed 133lbs and had a 37in chest. He had dark hair, brown eyes and was of dark complexion. He had no distinguishing marks or features.

William was transferred across to the 11th (Reserve) Battalion within a week of joining and remained with them until the following February whilst completing his military training then he was put back on the strength of the 3rd Battalion where he would wait to be called-up for service at the Front.

Notice came in early-1916, probably about the same time that Ethel fell pregnant with their fifth child, and on 24th May 1916 he sailed out to East Africa to join the 2nd Battalion in the field. At the outbreak of war the 2nd Battalion had comprised of Regular soldiers who were on garrison duties in India and had moved across to German East Africa in October 1914 but would be somewhat diluted with new men joining as reinforcements by 1916.

Photo courtesy of Diana Harrison Needham‎

Photo courtesy of Diana Harrison Needham‎

We know he began working with a Signalling Detachment after 30th August 1916 but this is the only information we know about his time in East Africa. At home, Ethel gave birth to their son, Stanley, on 19/10/1916.

William was invalided to South Africa with malaria on 24th March 1917 and was eventually (September 1917) evacuated back to the UK where he was resident at Belmont Road Auxillary Hospital, Liverpool. In December he was released from the hospital with a ‘£1 advance of pay’ and ‘a suit of plain clothes’

On 9th January 1918 he was discharged from the Army and awarded a pension of 27/6 for four weeks followed by 22/- for a further 44 weeks when it would be reviewed. His address on discharge was 6 Entwistle Row, Farnworth.

William was issued with Silver War Badge number 305938 and later received the British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal in recognition of his service.

After the war, William and Ethel had four more sons; Frank, Harold, Billy and Derek. William Stanley Tonge served with the Auxiliary Fire Service during WW2 and three of his sons were in the Army, thankfully all returned.

WS Tonge is holding the bird the other man is believed to have been a Mr Entwislte. Photo courtesy of Diana Harrison Needham‎

Willaim S Tonge is holding the bird the other man is believed to have been a Mr Entwislte. Photo courtesy of Diana Harrison Needham‎

Below are two articles about the Tonge family during the World War II.



Paul McCormick
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One Response to 17112 PTE. W. S. TONGE. L.N.LAN.R.

  1. Diana needham says:

    Thank you very much for the early information about my great grandad and for adding the later information

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