William Henry Muckler was born in Manchester's Beswick district in 1886, his parents were Edward and Jane. Edward was originally from Liverpool whilst Jane was a Mancunian. William was their third child after James and Jane. By the birth of their fourth child, Sarah, in 1890 the Muckler family were living in Oldham. The following year's census found them at 5 Back Street Grange. William's mother Jane died in 1900 aged 43 and the following year the family were at 10 Cannon Street. At the time of the 1901 census, 14 year old William was working in one of the many local cotton mills as a piecer. On May 14th 1910 William married Catherine Halligan at St.Andrew's Church in Oldham. William was working as a labourer at that point and living at 8 Booth Street. William and Catherine then boarded together with the Carroll family at 11 Booth Street. Their first child, William, was born in 1911 but sadly died when only five months old. Further children followed Thomas born in Royton in 1912, Florence in Oldham in 1914 and James in Oldham in 1917.
William Muckler was living in Royton, and again working as a piecer, when he enlisted very soon after the outbreak of war, in Oldham, and became a member of the freshly formed 12th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. The 12th had been created at Ladysmith Barracks, the Regiment's Depot, in Ashton under Lyne in September 1914. Thomas sailed with his battalion, 1005 strong, out from Folkestone on July 15th 1915, reaching Boulogne the following morning. The 12th Manchesters were first shown the niceties of trench warfare by the Liverpool Scottish before going into the line on the 24th July.For the rest of the year they were in and out of the line around Ypres.
Before Christmas 1915 a group of Royton men in the Battalion wrote home with an appeal to those still back home:
"It will soon be Christmas. We ask the people of Royton to give their hearts in prayer to God that He will safeguard us through the great perils and hardships which lie before us....There are many Royton boys both here and on other fronts. All single boys ought to be helping in this great fight who have sisters and mothers to protect. They should show that they are worthy of the name of man. What will our dear ones say? How proud they will be of the lads who are left behind here who have sacrificed their lives in this most honourable cause"
Shortly after that appeal, on December 23rd, Royton man Jimmy Barker was killed whilst on the front line with the battalion.
On the 2nd January 1916 the battalion went in to the trenches at Hill 60, and throughout February they remained in the Ypres area. On February 15th they came under heavy shellfire whilst manning the frontline and casualties were heavy in A Company with 15 men killed and many more wounded. Thomas O'Dea was one of the men killed. Royton man Harry Travis Stott was killed the following day.
The 12th Manchesters were to be in action on the third day of the Battle of the Somme on July 3rd in an attack on Railway Copse and Bottom Wood near Fricourt. They found themselves in two old German trenches looking north to Contalmaison where they remained until July 5th. The following day they advanced into Fricourt Wood and at 07:25 were ordered to attack Quadrangle Support Trench which two other battalions had already failed to take (in which Walter Thomas was killed).The assault was hastily organised and began at 07:50 in bright sunlight without any cover. The result was a complete disaster under a heavy barrage with enfilading machine gun fire and 555 men were killed,missing or wounded.
An officer who survived the action wrote afterwards:
"The steadiness of the men was wonderful and they went over in as good a line as if on parade, although as soon as the advance started they were subjected to very heavy shelling and machine-gun fire. As our barrage had ceased, they had no shelter whatever and had a distance of 700 yards to cross. As soon as the first three companies showed themselves on the ridge overlooking the trench they were met by a withering fire and were mowed down in great numbers.......in a few seconds, hardly any of us were on our feet. The casualties were very numerous. Only two officers came out unwounded and one wounded officer was never fit for service again"
Before they'd gone into action they had passed through the 9th Northumberland Fusiliers (who had failed in attacking the same positions just hours before) and one of their officers observed:
"It was splendid to see them as they crossed our line in single file, rifles with ready fixed bayonets slung over their shoulders, cigarettes in their lips, and without a sign of concern. They moved into open order in the open, under cover of our heavy artillery barrage and immediately the guns lifted they charged. A few actually reached the objective, some tried to bomb up Pearl Alley and Quadrangle Alley, but the opposition was too great, and they in turn fell back with losses no less than our own"
One of the killed was John Brannon. Another 17 men of the 12th Manchesters from the Oldham area also died.
The shattered remnants of the Battalion moved back to Ville, then Hailly, then Long and Albert where it stayed for the rest of the month. Bolstered with fresh replacement the Battalion was in action again on August 3rd 1916 in an attack on Orchard Trench, the attackers suffered under German artillery fire and failed. On the 5th they moved to Carnoy the later back to Montauban. There then followed a number of moves in the next few months, in and out of the front lines. At the end of the year, they found themselves at Guillemont.
In early February 1917,still in the same area, the 12th Manchesters found themselves in the front line near the village of Combles. At 07:30 on February 8th the 7th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment attacked and captured 300 yards of enemy trenches. From the 12th Manchesters, A Company provided carrying parties up to the captured trench whilst B Company garrisoned strong points in the new front line. Casualties that morning from these two companies numbered some 54 men. William Henry Muckler was one of those killed. His body was either never recovered or identified and his name can be found on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing.
Back home the widowed Catherine Muckler had two children and a third on the way. James Muckler was not born until after his father's death. In 1918 Catherine Muckler remarried in Oldham to Charles Instone.
As well as the memorial in Royton Park, William's name can also be found on Oldham's.
The men who were killed alongside William that day were:
BARNETT JAMES 24 Private 44205 from Liverpool
BUTLER ROBERT 30 Private 44209 from Warrington
ELLEL JOSEPH 24 Private 44648 from Clitheroe
FENTON JAMES 22 Private 31188 from Rawtenstall
FISHER JOHN Private 2696 born Tipperary,lived Oldham
GEORGESON JOHN 21 Lance Corporal 46556 from Wigan
HARDY CHARLES Corporal 4204 from Hillington,Norfolk
HARRISON HENRY 35 Private 44591 from Oswaldtwistle
HOLT FRANK Private 39692 from Oldham
HOPPER HAROLD 32 Private 41203 from Macclesfield
KELLY ALBERT 29 Private 39703 from Oldham
KNEALE GEORGE 21 Private 4357 from Douglas,Isle of Man
LITTLE WILLIAM Serjeant 5662 from Manchester
MAHER WILLIAM Lance Corporal 24051 from Salford
MITCHELL GEORGE 37 Serjeant 16155 from Dundee
PURCELL GEORGE Private 13872 from Liverpool
TAYLOR ALBERT 19 Private 46908 from Manchester
TINDALE HAROLD Lance Corporal 3956 born Manchester,lived Altrincham,enlisted Oldham
WARBURTON THOMAS Private 46637 from Urmston
WHITTINGHAM RICHARD 33 Private 7947 from Manchester
WILLIAM HENRY MUCKLER
Date of Death:08/02/1917
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 13A&14C