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William CrossleyWilliam Enoch Crossley was born in Luddenden, Halifax on 31st July 1891 to John and Hannah Maria Crossley (nee Murgatroyd). When William was baptised on 30th August 1891 at St. Mary’s Church in Luddenden his father was employed as a clerk.

By the time of the census in March 1901 the family had moved to Lancashire and were living in Kirkham at 26 Poulton Street, and by now his father was self-employed as a stationer and newsagent and his mother assisted in the business. Ten years later, 1911, William was 19 years old, working as a bank clerk and living with his parents at the same address.

When war was declared in August 1914, the Earl of Derby had made the suggestion that men might be more willing to enlist in the New Armies if they could be assured of fighting alongside their own friends, neighbours and workmates. Kitchener gave his blessing to this idea and sanctioned the raising of battalions by local councils, or even individuals, of what became known as ‘Pals Battalions’. The 7th Loyal North Lancs. was one such Battalion and much is written about their D Company, the Preston Pals. The three other companies making up the battalion were filled by ‘Pals’ from Blackpool, Kirkham and the Fylde, and Chorley.

The Major of Preston, Cyril Cartmell, placed the following advertisement in The Lancashire Daily Post on 31st August 1914.

‘It is proposed to form a Company of young businessmen, clerks, etc., to be drawn from Preston and the surrounding districts, and be attached, if practicable, to a battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Will those who would like to join apply here any afternoon or evening this week – the earlier the better. Town Hall, Preston – Cyril Cartmell 31st August, 1914”

At this time it was thought that the war would be over by Christmas’, and nobody wanted to miss out on the action. On 7th September 1914, 23-year-old William enlisted and joined the 7th Battalion with the number 13033, supplying his father’s details as being his legal next of kin.

The medical officer noted that William Crossley was 5ft 11.25in tall, weighed 169lbs and had a 40in chest. He had brown hair, grey eyes and was of a fresh complexion.

The Battalion came under command of 56th Brigade in 19th (Western) Division and moved to Whitchurch in December 1914 to begin their training and William was appointed Lance Corporal that month. He sailed to France with the main body of the 7th Battalion on 17th July 1915.

The 19th Division’s first action was at Pietre, a supporting/diversionary action during the Battle of Loos in September 1915 and in mid-1916 they took part in several battles on the Somme. These included The Battle of Albert (in which the Division captured La Boisselle), The attacks on High Wood, The Battle of Pozieres Ridge, The Battle of the Ancre Heights and The Battle of the Ancre. It was during one of these battles on the Somme that William was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field (London Gazette dated 21st October 1916) for his services to wounded men.

In February 1917 he accepted a temporary Commission and joined the 10th (Service) Battalion as a Second Lieutenant and on the 18th July 1917 the London Gazette recorded that he had been awarded the Military Cross. This award was for the action at Arras on 11th April 1917 where he sustained severe gun shot wounds to his chest and slight wounds to his left thigh and right forearm. He was operated on twice in No.1 Red Cross Hospital before being returned to the UK and on to The Prince of Wales’ Hospital for Convalescent Officers in Marylebone.


Below is the 10th Battalion War Diary entry for the day he was wounded and awarded the Military Cross. It doesn’t mention him by name;

11 April 1917. Arras.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

On the 29th September 1917, William married Alice Edmondson at the Parish church in Kirkham. He signed the register giving his occupation as a bank clerk rather than an Army Officer, and stated he was living on Ribby Road. Alice had been living in Rotherham and working as a health visitor. Newspapers reported the wedding;


The wedding party - click to enlarge

The wedding party – click to enlarge

In December 1917 William was deemed to have recovered enough to be fit for Home Service and was sent to join the 3rd Battalion in Felixstowe.

He was  promoted to Lieutenant on 19th August 1918 and returned to France to join the 1/4th (Territorial) Battalion in the field. They were were billeted at BETHUNE when he arrived on 8th October 1918 and  just five days later, on the 13th  was severely wounded in action again. A patrol at dawn had found the enemy very alert and located several machine gun posts west of the HAUTE DEULE CANAL who were directing harassing fire on their forward posts. During the day two men were killed. Second Lieutenant Taylor and nine men were missing, and Second Lieutenant Crossley and one man were wounded.

William had sustained gun shot wounds which fractured his mandible and also had flesh wounds to his neck. A bullet had entered through the back of his neck, perforated the floor of his mouth and made it’s final exit through his chin.

He was send back to the UK (Boulogne to Dover) on 23rd October and underwent treatment at the Queens Hospital, Sidcup until being made to relinquish his commission on account of ill health on 5th May 1920. He was permitted to retain his rank of Lieutenant and was given a pension.

Following his discharge from the Army he returned to his civilian occupation at the bank but continued to be involved with the Regimental Association. He was living at 7 Marquis Street in Kirkham when he applied for the 1915 Star, British War Medal and Allied Victory medal to which he was entitled.

Sometime between 1925 and 1934 he moved to Albert Villa, Hesketh: Lane, Tarleton.

On 1st May 1934 at Manchester Assizes he was convicted of forgery, uttering a forged document and Larceny as Servant. He was sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment which he started in Manchester prison before being transferred to Wakefield a month later.

Newspapers printed the story about his case;


Click to enlarge

In a memorandum dated 9th July 1934 The War Office recommended that, having been convicted by the Civil Power, that William was deprived of his rank of Lieutenant.

As the article above says, friends and fellow officers stood up for William and below is the letter from former chaplain to the 7th Battalion asking that Crossley be permitted to retain his rank despite his crime.



The Commanding Officer of the Loyal Regiment, Brigadier General J. E. Wells D.S.O  also tried to intervene, as did the Regimental Association;crossley-ra

Despite these testimonials the appeal was turned down and William was stripped of his rank. The notification appeared in the London Gazette of 17th July 1934 which coincidentally was the 19th anniversary of his arrival in France. The governor of Wakefield prison informed him accordingly.

William Enoch Crossley died on 15th January 1966 at the Royal Infirmary in Preston. His probate was granted to his widow, Alice of 4 Stanley Terrace, Fishergate Hill.

Updates: April 2016 – wedding photos added courtesy of Richard Clay.

Paul McCormick
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