Lieutenant, 7th Battalion Manchester Regiment.
Killed in action Thursday 10th June 1915, age 26.
Remembered on the Helles Memorial, Turkey.
Former student of chemistry.
William was born on 22nd September 1889 at Newbury, the second child of three to William and Louisa Freemantle. After completing his primary education in Thatcham, William attended Sidcot School in Somerset where he was notable for his interest in photography and for taking the role of Laboratory Curator – both indicative of an interest in science. He entered Hulme Hall in October 1907, to study Chemistry at Manchester University.
It was during his time at Halls that he became heavily involved in the Officer Training Corps (O.T.C.). In 1909 he completed a course at the Hythe School of Musketry, and in the same year won the Major Thornburn Challenge Cup for general efficiency. A popular person with an outgoing personality, he became secretary of the O.T.C. club, attained the rank of Quartermaster-Sergeant. Having successfully completed his degree in 1910, William found employment working as a chemical analyst with the Manchester Corporation Sewage Works in Davyhulme. He maintained an active role with the O.T.C. and was an Officer with the 7th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment Territorial Force.
William could not wait to go to war. On holiday at his parents in Newbury in August 1914, he was recalled to his battlalion, at the end of the month in order to prepare for active service abroad. Initially posted to Khartum in Sudan, William’s enthusiasm may have waned slightly as the battalion found themselves protecting British interests rather than engaging the enemy. In April 1915 all that changed when the battalion were ordered to Cairo, where they joined with other units of the East Lancashire Territorial Division. On 3 May they embarked onto the SS Ionian, landing four days later at Gallipoli on the evening of 7 May at ‘V’ Beach, Cape Helles. Within a month, William would be killed in action during the Manchester Regiment’s first serious assault of the campaign on 4th June. Fellow Officer W.J. Screwright wrote to William’s parents to explain the circumstances of their son’s death: “I happened to be quite close to him just after we had taken the enemy’s first line trench on 4 June. He was about the last Officer left of his Company, and was carrying on quite coolly under a terrific fire, and continued to do so a long time after he had been wounded in both arms, and not allowing anyone to touch him. When he met his death, it was instantaneous.”
William’s death highlighted a tragic shortfall in the War Office’s communication to the parents of fallen soldiers: Given the terrible casualties suffered across several Manchester Regiments during the attacks of 4th June, it is not a surprise that the local Manchester newspapers were quick to publish news of the failed attacks. William’s parents learnt of the attack from these papers, and due to a misunderstanding saw that their son had been wounded; only to receive a telegram from the War Office shortly afterwards confirming that he had been killed in action. In an obituary published by the Manchester Evening News after his death in June 1915, it was said that no man had been more delighted when orders for mobilisation were issued. Indeed, William had spoken to the same journalist in August 1914 and was quoted as saying “anyone else can be sorry about this war, but if I have to leave the army after it is over, I don’t care how long it lasts.”