William Thomas Wild was born in Royton in 1888. His parents were Benjamin and Mary. Benjamin worked as a warehouseman at a cotton mill and later as a house repairer. William's siblings were James, Sarah, Edwin and Benjamin. At the time of the 1891 census the family were living at 132 Oldham Road with William being the youngest at that point (Edwin and Benjamin came along later). It's unclear as to when but at some point between Benjamin's birth in 1895 and the 1901 census, William's mother Mary died. That census found the Wilds living at 6 Water Street in Heyside, widower Benjamin being helped with his four youngest children by a housekeeper, Isabella Mannock. In 1906 William's father married Hannah Marsden at St Mark's Church in Heyside and a half sister, Mary Alice, was born in 1907. Hannah also had two sons of her own who also lived with the Wilds - James & Robert.
William worked for a fair period of time at the Empire Mill in Heyside. There he worked variously as a Piecer, a Joiner-Minder and a Minder. Not long before he joined the army he had taken a new post working in the warehouse at the Lion Mill.
William joined the army on February 29th 1916 and was sent out for active service in the autumn of that year. By that time his step-brother Robert Marsden had already been killed in action. He was most probably part of two large drafts of new men that reached the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in mid October in the Somme area. Royton men William Mills France, Allan Martin, William Southworth & John Gavin had all already been killed with the 2nd Manchesters.
After time spent putting these new men through their paces and integrating them into the battalion it was time once again for the 2nd Manchesters to go into action. They did so on November 18th suffering terrible casualties in their attack. The immediate obstacle of the attack of the 32nd Division was a powerful system of defences known as the Munich Line amid morasses caused by recent heavy rain. The 32nd Division's assaulting units were from the 14th (incl.the 2nd Manchesters) and 97th Brigades - from left to right being the 15th Highland Light Infantry, the 2nd Manchesters, the 2nd King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and then another battalion of Highland Light Infantry.
They had taken over part of the front line on November 15th and the following day William Hickson from Royton was killed. Then, on November 17th, the Germans made a massed grenade attack on the 2nd Manchesters lines causing many casualties.
At 06:10 on November 18th the men went over the top in what was to prove the very last throw of the dice in the bloody Battle of the Somme. The Manchesters took their first objective but on the left the 15th HLI were held up by the barbed wire and on the right the 2nd KOYLI were also struggling. The 2nd Manchesters pressed on and got to the second line of German trenches, along with some of the 2nd KOYLI,but a counter attack pushed many of them back and those who remained were to be killed or captured. A single survivor returned from this latter group, he stated that his comrades lay dead or dying in front of a blazing dug-out, the woodwork of which had taken fire. A patrol the next day came upon the bodies of an officer and forty men who had died, fighting to the last, in a single group.
A sergeant later wrote:
"The Manchesters gained their objective and were the only regiment to do so. The company which was keeping touch with the KOYLI advanced as long as they did, but instead of halting at their objective they went on to a trench called Ten Tree Alley; the dug-out at the end of Lager Alley was not mopped up, so that when the men had passed beyond it the Boches came out and cut off their retreat. In the meanwhile the company that had got into Munich Trench and Trench 28 could neither advance nor withdraw;bombs were scarce, the Germans were on both sides of them and advancing up the trench in front of them; while a dug-out caught fire and the smoke was so dense that the men had to put on their gas masks. The party was either all killed, or wounded, or taken prisoner, while the fate of those who went on too far was as tragic as it was glorious and was equal to the splendid traditions of the Manchester Regiment. They halted on a small rise,and,refusing to surrender, fought it out to the last. The place was found afterwards with the bodies all grouped together"
3 Royton men died in the fighting that day - William Charles Plant from the 2nd Manchesters and Thomas Henry Cave and Harry Lomas from the 2nd KOYLI. The remnants of the 2nd Manchesters, included William Thomas Wild, remained in the line on November 19th and were finally relieved the following day. An officer later recorded an incident that occurred after their relief:
"On our way back we were met by the new divisional general,who,as our 6 officers and 150 men and transport went by,complained that I had no intervals. I informed him that what he was looking at was the battalion!"
After that the battalion was stationed in the Halloy area, rebuilding with new drafts of men. They left there on January 6th 1917, marching to Beauval. From there they travelled by buses to Bertrancourt. There were days spent in the front line and on January 13th the battalion's A & B companies found themselves allotted that task. There is no mention in the unit's war diary as to what happened to William Thomas Wild but he was killed that day along with Private Tom Wood, 25,41561 from Dukinfield. Both men are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing and it's most probable that they were killed by a shell (or shells).
WILLIAM THOMAS WILD
Date of Death:13/01/1917
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 13A&14C