William Lafferty

WILLIAM LAFFERTY (1887 - 1916)

William was born in July 1887; his place of birth is listed n various documents as being either Chester or Butley. However, we know from the 1891 Census that he was living at 8, Bolllin Grove, in Prestbury, with his grandparents, parents and his six siblings. By the time of the 1901 Census, the fourteen year old William was one of three servants working in the household of Mr and Mrs Reid at Hoar Park Farm in Ansley, Warwickshire. We don't know the nature of his role beyond him being described as "a general farm servant".

At some point in the intervening years, William returned to the Macclesfield area since, on 31st January 1910, he married Frances Mares at St Peter's Church in Prestbury. Frances, who was employed in the "grocery business", was ten years William's senior; she was born and lived in Butley. The couple settled in a three room house on New Road, Butley, where Frances had lived with her family prior to getting married. By 1911, the couple were living with their baby son, Harold, and Frances' younger sister, Edith, a local shop keeper; baby Denis arrived two years later. William supported his new family by working on a sewage farm as a labourer. Away from work, he was well-known as a good footballer and played regularly for Prestbury Village Club.

When war broke out, William was called up, having served three years with the colours and six years as a reservist. He enlisted in Macclesfield and joined the 1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards.

On Monday 3 July 1916, William, now Sergeant Lafferty, was with his regiment near Ypres. During a period of extremely heavy bombardment from the German lines, William's dugout was hit and blown up; the explosion buried William and nine companions. Working under heavy machine gun fire, their colleagues managed to dig four men out alive; William was not one of the survivors.

William's wife, Frances, learnt of her husband's death in a letter from his officer, chaplain and one of his colleagues. William's officer wrote:

"It was indeed a great sorrow that your husband should have been killed in action. His death was instantaneous and he did not feel anything. He was a very valuable sergeant to me and always did his duty very well as my bombing sergeant. Please accept my deepest condolence on his death and in your loss. If it is any consolation to you, remember that he died in a great cause..."

Rev. A. Llewellyn, the army chaplain, provided further details of William's death and funeral:

" [William] was hit by shell fire in the front trenches and killed instantaneously...your husband was a fine man and well liked by the officers and men. I know it will cheer you to know that honour and respect were shown to your husband at his funeral last night, when the Commanding Officer, 2nd Officer in Command and Adjutant, were all present. The funeral took place in the darkness, some little way behind the lines. It is a very little cemetery and though I cannot tell you the place, you will be able to get particulars and a photo of the grave later, by writing. We had a special prayer for you and all mourners at the funeral, asking God to comfort and uplift you."

Sgt A. Grace, William's comrade, remarked,

"I always found a good friend in "Pat" as I called him."

We now know the "very little cemetery", mentioned by Rev. Llewellyn, is La Brique Military Cemetery No. 2 in Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Located in the Ypres Salient, on the Western Front, this cemetery, which was opened in February 1915 and used until March 1918, consisted of 383 burials laid out in 25 irregular rows. The Commonwealth Grave Commission's records show that William was laid to rest with four other Grenadier Guardsmen who died on the same day. His grave was originally marked with a cross but he now has a simple headstone; no personalised message was inscribed on the stone.

William's wife, Frances, married David Ford in 1922 and was 83 years old when she died in 1961. William's son, Harold, continued to live in the Macclesfield area, until his death in 1978, aged 68.

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