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William Lever was born in Preston in around 1878. His father was named Henry, his mother Mardia, brothers Robert and James and sister Annie.

Formerly working as weaver, William joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in 1897 when he was 19 years old. He already had some military experience, serving in the 3rd Bn Lancashire Fusiliers Militia (number 2378) alongside his regular job.

At his enlistment medical in Preston on 4th March 1897, the doctor described him as being 5ft 5in and weighing 123 lbs. William had grey eyes, brown hair and a fresh complexion. He was posted into the 2nd Battalion.

William didn’t have the best start to his military career, on 6th April 1897 he was punished for ‘leaving coal fatigue without permission until found in his barracks about 4:20 PM’. Then two months after joining he was found guilty of ‘misappropriating and selling a shirt the property of Colour Serjeant Burke’. He was imprisoned for 168 hours and ordered to pay for the shirt.

In January 1898 he was confined to Barracks for 3 days having ‘returned off pass at 11:20 drunk’. Having completed fourteen months service, on 24th May 1898 William deserted. He remained at large until May 1899 when he rejoined the Battalion. Private William Lever was sent for trial and convicted by District Court Martial on the following counts;

  1. Deficient of equipment and clothing
  2. Fraudulent enlist
  3. Fraudulent enlist
  4. Absent without leave
  5. Deficient of equipment and accessories

Being found guilty of all charges, he was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment and made to pay for the clothing and equipment.

His sentence expired on 8th December 1899 and he rejoined the Regiment, serving at the Depot.

At Shorncliffe on 15th February 1900 William had two entries for bad behavior and was punished by being confined to Barracks for 8 days.

  1. Singing and shouting on the bus returning from Folkestone about 11:15 PM.
  2. Refusing Hesitating to obey an order

He remained in the depot until June 1900 when he was posted into the 1st Battalion. Private William Lever served in South Africa with the Loyal North Lancs Mounted Infantry from January 1901 to August 1902.

William was granted good conduct pay in February 1902, however, three weeks later on 9th March 1902 he was in trouble again being found drunk on duty. He was tried by Field General Court Martial and imprisoned for 28 days in South Africa. William also lost his good conduct pay.

For his service during the Boer War he was awarded the Queens South Africa Medal with the Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Transvaal clasps; and the Kings South Africa medal with the 1901 and 1902 clasps.

Returning from South Africa to Devonport, December 1902 saw William receive two more entries;

  1. 8th December 1902: Absent off Furlough Tattoo until 12:30 PM. Punishment admonished.
  2.  Drunk when parading for picquet at 7:40 PM. Punishment: 96 hours imprisonment.

On 1st April 1903 he was posted into the 2nd Battalion. On 8th October 1903 at Buena Vista Barracks in Gibraltar a court of enquiry was held by the Commanding Officer in order to investigate the circumstances as to how William sustained injuries.

Statement of 5478 Pte W Lever. On the 27th September 1903 about 4:30 PM I was walking up the back road from camp to Buena Vista when (x) hard hit which stumbled me. I remember nothing until two men carried me over to hospital. I was not on duty at the time. I was sober and walking alone. I do not know who struck the blow.

Statement of 7552 Cpl M Hughes, Royal Army Medical Corps. I was ward master on duty, Sept 27th, at the station hospital about 5:30 PM. Pte Lever was brought to the hospital suffering from an injury to the right ankle, his face was badly contused, I asked him what had happened to his leg, he said he got kicked. He had the appearance of being under the influence of drink.

Opinion of the President of the Court. I am of the opinion that the injury was sustained while no 5478 Private W Lever 2/L.N.Lancs Regt was not on duty and that he was to blame.

There is also evidence in his medical record that he may have been getting friendly with the local women.

In August and November 1903, still at Gibraltar, William was punished for the following misdemeanors;

  1. Absent from 12 midnight until 07:30 am
  2. Drunk in barracks
  3. Being in the canteen when a prisoner at large at 09:25 PM
  4. Stating a falsehood to a NCO

On 12th April 1904 he was posted back into the 1st Battalion. The next month, another entry ‘Committing a nuisance in his bed’ saw him confined to barracks for 5 days.

In October 1904 William completed his terms of service with the Colours and was transferred into the Army Reserve. His conduct and character was deemed to be ‘indifferent’. His address at this time was 9 Durham Street, Preston.

William married Ann Flynn at St Augustines  church, Preston on 3rd February 1906.

At the end of his Army Reserve service, in 1911 William opted to re-enlist as a reservist for a further 4 years. He attended the mandatory training at Fleetwood in 1911 and 1913.

When war broke out in 1914, William was mobilised and embarked for France on 15th September 1914 as part of the British Expeditionary Force.

On 13th October he was appointed paid Lance Corporal.

On 31st October 1914 William was reported to be missing in action. It was later assessed that he had died on, or since, that date and was to be considered dead for official purposes. He had served 14 years and 136 days.

A local newspaper reported his death;


The following is an extract from ‘The Diary of a Second Lieutenant‘, a personal account of the 30th and 31st October 1914.

Next morning we opened our eyes to a nasty event. The Germans began to shell us; we hug the trench as much as we can, but several men are hit. About 9-am we are ordered to advance and support the Royal Scots Fusiliers and Queen’s Regiment, said to be heavily pressed. We moved forward in lines of Companies; I am on the extreme left. We have an unpleasant time advancing, from shell and machine-gun fire, I find the right of Queen’s Regiment, but they are too hard pressed and are about to evacuate their trenches. We retire first and cover their retirement. Many casualties occur and units are much mixed up. We take up a fresh position, but have to dig a new lot of trenches. Many wounded are left out. Towards morning we are told to surrender our trenches to the Bedfords. We return to our original trenches and occupy them, but my Company has to dig a fresh lot. The effort is too much for us, for by this time we are dead beat.

After I had dug down a couple of feet I gave it up, and told the men to do the same. We had to reserve some strength for the morrow. By this time we have not many men left per Company. About 25% become casualties. Pass a very unpleasant night.

Next day, the 31st (which was the worst day of all), the bombardment commenced at dawn. We sat in our trenches and prayed that they would not come, for we were quite helpless and unable to move. At nine we are sent to attempt a counter attack. A most important rising in the ground has been captured by the Germans. We move off (just as we leave the trenches several men are struck down by shells) and attempt to move through the village of Gueluveldt. I am leading with my platoon, and in attempting to cross a lane we are enfiladed by a machine-gun. Most fortunately no man was hit, but Major Carter, D.S.O., sent Capt. Ryley off to try and locate the gun. That was the last heard, or seen of him. I am now in command of the Company. I reach the main road of Guluveldt and there come to a standstill. It is quite impossible to advance any further on account of the terrific shelling. You cannot see parts of the village for the smoke and dust coming from the bursting shells. Also bullets seem to come from all directions. I am now joined by 2nd.Lieut Ker and Capt. Prince with “C” Company. We are still more or less bewildered by the noise. I confer with Prince and we decide that it is impossible to advance through what is in front of us with the few men we have got.

These men are dropping like flies all around us, so we withdraw again to our trenches. This little movement which lasted only about half an hour, has cost us dear. Two officers and half the two Companies have been placed hors de combat; I only have Ker left. We now have to sit under a terrible shelling in shallow trenches. The 60th Rifles are on our left. My trench has a door over the top and, lying with my stomach against the near parapet, I manage to avoid the bits of shrapnel which, bursting very low, actually come into the trench and splinter the door over my head. I have several narrow shaves. Ker is also having a bad time, and we every now and then call to each other to ascertain if still alive. The men are by this time very shaky, but hold out splendidly. After being there until about 1-p.m. we are ordered to retire, the Germans having rushed our front line to the extent of a couple of miles. We are not strong enough to counter attack yet, so have to abandon all our wounded, many of whom I am afraid were murdered by the enemy. We retire under very heavy shell fire and in very bad order. Units are terribly mixed up, and we only manage to keep together five officers and about 40 men. We are pursued by shells the whole way and have many narrow shaves. We retire slowly on Hooge, and find that a general retirement for the whole line has been issued.

This is almost immediately countermanded and we advance. The whole Brigade only numbers about 200. We press forward and attack and drive the Germans out of a wood on the side of the Menin Road. We bayonet and shoot hundreds and are weary with fighting. The ground was covered with the dead and dying. We did not advance beyond the wood.

William Lever’s next of kin later received the 1914 star and clasp, the British War Medal and Victory Medal. They would also have received the Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: 5478
Date of Death: 31/10/1914
Age: 36
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.

Paul McCormick
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