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William Southworth was born in Preston in 1878 to Stephen and Elizabeth Southworth (nee Armistead). His parents married in the Parish Church of St. John in Preston on Christmas Day 1875. William was the eldest of five surviving children, the others being;

  • Eleanor (1881)
  • Eliza Ann (1883)
  • Alfred (1885)
  • James (1888)

In both the 1881 and 1891 Census William and his family lived at 3 Bread Street in Preston which was where his mother had living prior to her marriage. William`s father was working locally as a cotton spinner. By 1901 the family had moved to 18 Disraeli Street in Preston and William was working on the docks as a shipyard labourer, the rest of the family were all employed in cotton mills.

On Christmas Day 1907 William married Elizabeth Pilkington in St. Matthew`s Church in Preston and by 1911 they had set up home at 37 Mercer Street, William was now a cotton weaver and Elizabeth was a grocer. The couple do not appear to have had any children. William attested into the 4th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on the 7th December 1915 and was issued with his original service number of 5563 (which would later be changed to 202542 when the TF was renumbered in January 1917). At his medical inspection he confirmed his age as 37 years and 11 months and his occupation as a cotton weaver. He was five feet five and a half inches tall and he weighed 122lbs. After completing and passing his medical inspection, William was posted to the Reserve.

At some point after he first attested William had left the cotton mill and had secured employment at the rubber works in Leyland. He was then mobilised on the 9th August 1916 and embarked for France with reinforcements on the 23rd December 1916. After landing in Boulogne, William, together with the rest of the reinforcements arrived at the 25th Infantry Base Depot on Boxing Day 1916, three days later he joined A Company of 1/4th Battalion in the field, the Battalion coming under the Command of 164th Brigade in 55th (West Lancashire) Division. The 1/4th Battalion had just come out of the trenches on Christmas Eve and had then spent three days over Christmas in fairly comfortable billets in Ypres. On the 27th December the Battalion moved back to `C` Camp at Brandhoek which is where William joined them, the Battalion War Diary noting `29th December – 135 other ranks reinforcements arrived from base`.

The 1/4th Battalion spent the first few months of 1917 in much the same area around Ypres. William`s service record then shows he spent a couple of weeks in rest camp 6/7/17 – 21/7/17. On the 31st July 1917 the Third Battle of Ypres began (Passchendaele), prior to the opening day of the Battle the weather had been fine but on the 29th July a very heavy thunder and rain storm broke out, and all the shell holes filled with water, the roads becoming almost impassable and the whole area subsequently became a quagmire.

William`s papers note that he was killed in action on the opening day of the Battle but this was later amended when it was realised that he had been severely wounded with a bullet wound to his chest. He was transported to 32 Casualty Clearing Station for treatment but sadly the wound eventually proved fatal and he died on the 5th August 1917.

His wife Elizabeth was notified of his death and the local paper later published a brief article;

According to his papers, none of William`s personal effects were returned to his family. After the war Elizabeth took receipt of her husband`s British War and Victory Medals to which he was entitled and she would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

William was buried with honour in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery and his wife had the following words inscribed at the foot of his headstone;


Photo taken in 2011

Janet Davis
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