Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due course we shall reap7.
William’s life began on a fine28 Spring day in 188721, on the outskirts of the bustling market town of Ellesmere1. He was the fourth child of parents Mary and John Young, a hardworking smallholder. With much work to be done, and sporadic income11, William would have learnt from an early age to help around the smallholding, with time for play a bonus47. The unexpected death of his Father22, just three years later undoubtedly rocked the family, as did the hardships inflicted by the following severe Winter15. Left to support five young children3 and perhaps in need of family support, Mary moved her family back to her own childhood roots, in the tiny15 hamlet of Kenwick’s Park, Cockshutt4.
Following this early traumatic time, William’s life seems to have settled into one of simple routine in the “quiet content (of the) byways as well as the highways”15 of the Parish, attending Sunday Worship at SS Simon & Jude’s with his family19. When the “defective plain glass windows were replaced by the present coloured ones at Easter, 1894”15, the wriggling little boy was probably relieved to have something different to look at for a while!
At around the same time, William began attending school31, accompanying his siblings on the daily walk there and back, continuing with his chores, fitting them around the school day47. Whenever possible, he would have worked for one of the local farmers, his small pay going into the household finances48.
On leaving school, William began an apprenticeship as a Wheelwright4, with Mr Thos. Sutton46/31. Over a period of fifteen years31/45, he became a skilled carpenter, learning how to select and manage timber and the construction processes to use45. By the time he had become Master Craftsman and a member of the Egerton Lodge of Oddfellows31, he was both knowledgeable and accomplished45; an asset in keeping trade flowing through the village before the advent of motor vehicles.
By 1916, with no end in sight to the war, it was clear that the skills William had mastered were a fundamental necessity in keeping the war effort moving, whether men, armaments or supplies. In November31, he enlisted with the Royal Engineers40 and, on going to France, was attached to the 11th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment (Midlands Pioneers)26 assigned to logistical and construction duties49. Soon after, Private W Young 4664519 was deployed to Belgium26, where, in October 1917, the Battalion was under orders to construct a light railway in the Second Army area49. The work was arduous and the conditions dangerous, as the Battalion struggled with quagmire, induced by incessant rains49, and continual heavy shell fire and mustard gas attacks49. The death and sickness rates were appallingly high49.
On 27th October 1917, William Young was killed in action19. The Diary entry for that date states, “Work continued as before. 3 men proceeded on leave. 2 men of B Coy were killed and 5 wounded. 2 men were despatched to the Base unfit”49.
Posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal13 William was laid to rest in Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, where his headstone reads, “In Jesu’s Keeping”19.
On 22nd November 191731, a Memorial Service was held in the Parish Church of Ss Simon & Jude, Cockshutt in tribute to Private W Young, a young man of “quiet disposition … much respected by all”31. In a quiet act of remembrance, the following inscription was added to his parents’ headstone29 in the Churchyard of Ss Simon & Jude:
WILLIAM, youngest son of the above, killed in action 27 Oct 1917, laid to rest Reservoir Cemetery, Ypres, aged 30
We Will Remember Him.
Private William Young, 46645, 11th Bn. Leicestershire Regiment.
Killed in action in Belgium on 27th October 1917.
Buried at Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, Belgium. Grave I. I. 32.
The fighting man shall from the sun
Take warmth, and life from the glowing earth;
Speed with the light-foot winds to run,
And with the trees to newer birth;
And find, when fighting shall be done,
Great rest and fullness after dearth24.