William was born in Alexandria, Dumbartonshire, on 10 May 1896. His younger brother, George, was born in about 1898. In 1901, when the national census was taken, the family had moved to the Stockport area and was living at 20 Hawthorn Lane. His father, Andrew, then 32, was a chemist with a calico printing company. His mother, Georgina was also 32. Andrew's income provided the family with a very comfortable middle class lifestyle and they could afford to employ a live-in general servant.
William's service file at the National Archives suggests that he applied for a commission almost as soon as he joined the army. This was not at all unusual as young men of his background were often picked out as "officer material". His enlistment papers show him to have been 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing 126 pounds. He had a chest measurement of 33 inches (which he could expand by a further 3 inches). The examining doctor noted he had normal vision and good teeth.
His application for a commission is dated 16 January 1915. At the time, he gave his address as "Glenariff", Whaley Bridge. This is a substantial house, dating from the 1890s, on Start Lane. In support of his application William wrote that he could "ride but am not an efficient horseman". He stated a preference for a Glasgow or other Scottish Regiment. His application was accepted with effect from 28 January. He went overseas to join the 6th Battalion of the Fusiliers in the autumn.
In July 1916, he was wounded, but it is not thought seriously. In late September, William temporarily commanded one of the Battalion's Companies for a week and, between the 20th and 27th , was promoted to Captain.
The following year, William was again wounded. On, 31 July, the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres (often called Passchendaele), he received gunshot wounds to his right arm and his back, whilst leading his men in "C" Company.
In the October, he wrote applying for a wound gratuity "I was wounded in the back severely and in the arm slightly, admitted to hospital on the same day and transferred to 2nd Southern General Hospital, Bristol on 5th of August. I was detained two months in hospital and came before a medical board in August, then on 29th September and latterly on 24th of October. I am now passed fit for home service and have full use of my limbs but am unable to bear any weight on my back."
William again appeared before a Medical Board at Fort Matilda, Greenock, Scotland on 16 March 1918. The Board found "This officer has now recovered and is now fit for general service." It will have been at this time that William was transferred to the 11th Battalion. It had been formed originally as a home service Territorial unit and only went to France in May 1918. William did not join until 2 July and they will have welcomed an officer with combat experience. However, he would not be with them long. On 6 September, he was admitted to 20th General Hospital at Camiers, suffering with Orchitis.
On 14 October, he was released from hospital and was at Etaples awaiting a return to the Battalion. He was one of many millions, worldwide, who contracted influenza that year. And, on 29th October he was readmitted to hospital at Camiers. In the days before antibiotics, flu could easily develop into pneumonia and William's condition worsened. His parents received an urgent telegram at their home now at "Wilford", Clifton Road, Heaton Moor. It urged them to go to France to visit him. It's not known if they arrived before he died on 4 November.