William Hickson CLAYTON
Rank: Private
Number: 3578
Date of Death: 16 March 1916
Age: 33
Cemetery: Basra Memorial, Iraq

Reporting his death, the local newspapers described him as the only son of a Mr & Mrs John Grundy of 9 Hawthorn terrace, Heaton Moor. The difference in surname suggests that his mother may have remarried whilst William was a small child and that he had been raised by Mr Grundy as his own child.

In later life, William became a painter and decorator, working for Samuel Gibson of 2 Grosvenor Road, Heaton Moor. In his spare time, he was a keen bowls player and a member of the Thornfield Bowling Club and a past member of the club which played at Heaton Moor Park. He enlisted in October 1914 and was assigned to the 1st Battalion. This was a regular army unit but even by this early stage of the War it had suffered so many casualties that the replacement troops were "duration only" men.

William will have joined the Battalion, after training, in the early spring of 1915 and will have seen action on the Western Front throughout the year. In late December, the Battalion was transferred to Mesopotamia, landing at Basra on 8 January 1916. He wrote home shortly after "When we arrived here, there was nothing but a desert but now its one mass of tents and we are getting things shipshape. The fighting out here is not severe, like France. There have been no heavy shells so far, so one has a better chance of coming through if one can dodge the bullet. We have made trenches now. Water is very scarce and food also was at the beginning but it is better now."    

The British Force which had landed in 1914 to capture the oil fields around Basra had advanced northwards and had been defeated by the Turksih army. It had been forced to retreat and was besieged in the town of Kut-al-Amara. The main efforts for the soldiers who had arrived in December and January were to try to lift the siege.

The Turks were entrenched about 10 miles east of Kut at Es Sinn. On the night of 7/8 March, the whole of the Lahore Division of the Army, which included the Manchesters, marched from camp at Abu Roman arriving about 3 miles from Es Sinn by daybreak, where they dug in.

In the early afternoon, orders were issued to move forward to a position 2 miles east of a Turkish stronghold known as the Dujailah Redoubt. At 4pm, orders were given for the 8th Brigade to attack the Redoubt. The Manchesters would be on the left, 59th Royal Scinde Rifles on the right with the 47th Sikhs and 2nd Rajputs in close support.

The Manchesters would deploy with No. 1 Company on the right, No. 2 on the left with No. 3 in support about 400 yards behind and No. 4 in reserve 600 yards behind 3. The Battalion's War Diary describes the attack as follows:-

"The fire of our guns was originally planned to lift off the redoubt at 4.45pm, but this was found to leave too little time for the advance and was altered to 5.15pm.

The attack commenced at 4.40pm and for the first 1000 yards it was found unnecessary to extend. A battery firing from direction of Sinn Abtar redoubt to the north brought a heavy enfilade fire to bear and companies extended and the first casualties occurred. The companies continued to advance and soon came under a heavy cross fire from the Turkish trenches, which flanked the redoubt on both sides. These trenches were neglected by our artillery who concentrated on the redoubt which the fire from the supporting Brigade on our left failed to keep the enemy fire down. An enemy machine gun somewhere on our left kept up a heavy fire and caused many casualties. The first 2 companies obtained a footing in the redoubt at 5.20pm, 2nd Lieut. Morres and Sergt Duffy being the first to enter. Two lines of trenches being quickly occupied and the supporting company followed up in a few minutes, they were joined up by parties of the 2nd Rajputs and a few Gurkhas. The trenches were bombed along for some distance but the supply of bombs, which was limited, was soon exhausted. The sun was low and in the eyes of the attackers and as the attack swept over the crest of the redoubt, they were enveloped in thick clouds of dust and smoke caused by concentrated shell and machine gun fire.

In the meantime, our machine guns reached a position about 500 yards from the redoubt and opened fire until ordered to retire by the Brigade Machine Gun Officer.. At 5.45pm a heavy counter attack developed chiefly from our left flank. Being able to approach under cover it was not noticed till too late and the Turks were able to use their bombs with great effect. At the same time the flanking fire was redoubled and the position becoming untenable, the Battalion was obliged to withdraw. Throughout the attack the fire of the enemy's artillery was very accurate. All ground gained was finally abandoned at dusk but all through the night large parties were out collecting and bringing in the wounded."

Over half the Battalion had become casualties. William was one of over three hundred to have been wounded. Medical facilities near the front line were rudimentary but there was a field hospital established a few miles away. This was quickly overwhelmed by the unexpected number of casualties. William died of his wounds on the 16th. He was reported to be aboard a hospital ship at the time. It is not known if this was one of the small vessels which would take several days to evacuate casualties down the River Tigris to Basra or if he had reached Basra and was aboard a properly equipped hospital ship bound for Egypt or Malta.

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