WILLIAM HENRY ROBERTS
Date of Death:26/04/1915
Cemetery:La Brique Military Cemetery No.2
William Henry Roberts was born in Rhos, near Wrexham in either 1882 or 1883. His parents were George,a coalminer, and Jane. William's siblings were Emily, George, Owen, Norman, Dorothy and Jane. The youngest, Jane, was born in Royton in 1907 so at some point in the years preceding that the family had moved to the town. In 1911 they were living at Church Street, just by St.Paul's Church where they were parishioners. His father was now a carter and William himself was a piecer in one of the many local cotton mills.
William had joined the army before the war but his father, obviously unhappy at this turn of events, had paid for his discharge from The King's Liverpool Regiment. He married Alice Butterworth in May 1914 and they set up home at 80 Sandy Lane (an address that William Standring had lived at previously).
Then, in August, when war broke out William joined the army for a second time. He got to France and his new battalion - the 1st Manchesters on January 25th 1915. The battalion had seen a lot of action in the couple of months it had been at the front at the end of 1914, a Royton man - regular soldier Fred McSweeney being one of it's very first casualties - and the first couple of months of William's time with the battalion was one of recuperation and reorganisation. Then in March 1915 William and his unit were involved in heavy fighting during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, which claimed the life of another Royton regular - Bert Lees.
In April, William wrote a last letter to his wife Alice in which he said:
"Just a line or two hoping you are in the best of health as it leaves me at present. I am in the pink. I got your parcel all right,and I was very glad of it. Tell Emily I thank her for the wallet. I thank all of you for your generosity. Dear wife, you are looking all right, but would undoubtedly be better if I was home again. But never mind, God's good, and we shall be together some day. I was in the trenches when I got the parcel. On that day we got cakes, dates,potatoes,carrots and meat and we had the best dinner we had had for a good while. Remember me to all at home and all friends...."
The Second Battle of Ypres began on April 22 and for a time the Allied position was perilous due to the massive use of chlorine gas by the attacking Germans. On April 26th the 1st Manchesters were called upon to counter attack. They attacked through clouds of gas and in the face of machine gun fire and shelling and took many casualties. William Henry Roberts was one of the men killed, and is one of the few to have a known grave. Alongside him fell another Royton man, William Holt and six others from the Oldham district.
Apart from Roberts & Holt the men of the 1st Manchesters killed that day were:
ARLOW PATRICK Private 2619 from Salford
BOYLE WILLIAM 19 Private 2128 from Salford
CLEMENTS HENRY 33 Corporal 23353 from Brixton
CLIFTON HARRY Private 1529 from Gorton,Manchester
CONNOR PATRICK Private 868 from Wigan
CURRAN FRANK Private 1182 from Miles Platting,Manchester
CURRIE JOSEPH DCM Private 1328 from Manchester
DAVIES PETER 34 Private 7792 from Werneth, Oldham
EGERTON GEORGE 29 Private 8910 from Salford
GOODSTEIN LOUIS Private 1229 from Manchester
HARVEY ALBERT 30 Private 2198 from Gorton,Manchester
HINDLE WILLIAM Lance Corporal 6776 from Blackburn
HITCHINS HENRY 49 Lieutenant Colonel from Sussex.Son of a Major General
HOWARTH HERBERT Private 2768 from Halifax
JACKSON ROBERT Private 2388 from Breeze Hill,Oldham
JOHNSON DAVID Private 909 from Manchester
KEARNEY ALFRED Private 1674 born Birmingham,enlisted Manchester
MARKS SAMUEL Private 1429 from Manchester
MASON THOMAS 21 Private 1645 from Manchester
MOORES THOMAS Corporal 1754 from Manchester
MOULE JAMES Private 2367 from Preston
McDONALD JOHN 34 Private 2665 born Mullingar,Westmeath.Lived in Failsworth
PASS THOMAS 19 Private 2816 from Manchester
QUINN PATRICK 20 Private 2697 from Dublin
REDFORD GEORGE 31 Private 5965 from Manchester
ROBINSON ARTHUR 20 Second Lieutenant from Balham,London
ROGERS JOHN Private 2101 from Salford
SHAW HUGH Lance Corporal 9734 from Greenfield
STUBBS WILFRED 19 Private 2722 from Oldham
TAYLOR FREDERICK 21 Private 2106 from Newton Heath,Manchester
WARREN SYDNEY Private 1153 from Walworth, London
WATERHOUSE LOUIS 20 Private 2555 from Levenshulme,Manchester
WEAVER ALBERT 24 Private 1372 from Epsom
WHAITES JOSEPH 35 Private 5321 from Hulme,Manchester
WILCOX RICHARD 19 Private 2240 from Glodwick,Oldham
Corporal Issy Smith won the Victoria Cross during the same action for rescuing many wounded men from no mans land.
William's wife Alice received notification of his death on their first wedding anniversary. She later moved to Ashton-under-Lyne.