William Lafferty, Sgt 12056, 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards
Killed in action 3rd July 1916 near Ypres, Belgium, aged 29
William Lafferty was born in 1887 at Prestbury, the son of Julia and Patrick Lafferty, a general labourer from Ireland. The 1891 census shows the family living at 8 Bollin Grove, Prestbury with Julia’s parents, Ann and Timothy Mahar, who were also Irish. In 1891, three-year-old William had six siblings: Ann (11), Mary (10), James (9), Francis (7), Thomas (5), who joined the Irish Guards, and ten-month-old Timothy, who joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
William was educated at Prestbury Day School and was a keen footballer, playing for the local Prestbury club.
By 1901, fourteen-year-old William was employed as a farm servant in Warwickshire, at Hoar Park Farm, Ansley. He was living with farmer Edwin Ward, his wife Mary and one-year-old son Albert, all of whom were born in Prestbury. No doubt William was known to the family, perhaps already employed by them, when they moved to Warwickshire, and agreed to go with them.
William later joined the army, serving for three years, and on leaving became a reservist for the next six years.
William returned to Prestbury and at the age of 23 married 32-year-old Frances Mares, of Butley, on 31st January 1910 at St Peter’s Church in Prestbury. On the marriage certificate, William described himself as a farmer; but by the time of the 1911 census just over a year later, he was employed as a sewage farm labourer. The couple were living at New Road, Butley, and had an eleven-month-old son, Harold. Frances ran a grocery business from home, and her sister, who lived with them, was employed as a shop assistant.
William later started a business as a carter, and another son, Denis, was born in 1913.
As a reservist, William was recalled to the army when war broke out and, after undergoing a brief period of training, was drafted to France on 20th September 1914.
By July 1916 William’s regiment was near Ypres. During a very heavy German bombardment the parapet and signal dugout in which he and nine others were sheltering was blown up, burying all the occupants. Under heavy machine gun fire, their colleagues were able to dig four of the men out; unfortunately William was not one of them.
His death was reported in the Macclesfield Times of 14th July 1916:
THREE BROTHERS KILLED – SERGT. LAFFERTY LOSES HIS LIFE – FINE TRIBUTE TO A GOOD SOLDIER
Mrs Frances Lafferty, New Road, Prestbury, has been informed that her husband, Sergeant William Lafferty, was killed in action in France on July 3rd.
The Captain of Sergeant Lafferty’s Company wrote as follows: “It was indeed a great sorrow that your husband should have been killed in action. His death was instantaneous, and he did not feel anything. He was a very valuable sergeant to me, and always did his duty very well as my bombing sergeant. Please accept my deepest condolence on his death… remember that he died in a great cause, and with the first company of the British Army.”
In his letter, the Chaplain of the regiment, the Rev. A. Llewelyn Jones, stated, “…On July 3rd, two days ago, Sergt. Lafferty was hit by shell fire in the front trenches, and killed instantaneously. …your husband was a fine man, and well liked… honour and respect were shown to your husband at his funeral last night, whent eh Commanding Officer, Second Officer and Adjutant were all present. The funeral took place in the darkness some little way behind the line. It is a pretty little cemetery, and though I cannot tell you the place, you will be able to get particulars and a photograph of the grave later…”
Sergeant A. Grace, a comrade of the deceased soldier stated, “… I always found a good friend in ‘Pat,’ as I called your husband…”
Sergt. Lafferty was 29 years of age and leaves a widow and two children. He was called up on the outbreak of war, having served three years with the colours and six years as a reservist. He went into training, and was drafted out to France with the Grenadier Guards a month after the outbreak of war. The deceased soldier received his education at the Prestbury Day School under Mr Ernest Barber. In civil life Sergeant Lafferty carried on business as a carter, and was a well-known footballer, having played for the village Club. He was the son of Mr Patrick Lafferty, Dale Brow, Prestbury, and two of his brothers have lain down their lives for their country, namely Private Henry Lafferty, Royal Welsh Fusiliers (killed in action November 1914); and Lance-Corporal Timothy Lafferty, of the same regiment (killed in action May 1915). Another brother, Thomas, has been wounded at the front, and is now a drill corporal at Caterham, Surrey. He was struck at Ypres.
William’s death was also reported in the Macclesfield Courier of 15th July 1916:
… Sergeant Lafferty was a National Reservist, being called up on the outbreak of was when he joined up with the 1st Grenadier Guards and was drafted out to France almost immediately. It is interesting to note that he enlisted as a private and has won his promotion by sheer hard work. He has never had a single day’s sick leave since joining up, and but for a short furlough last August and at Easter he has remained in the trenches practically the whole time – only coming out with the regiment for ‘rests’. Prior to enlisting Sergt. Lafferty was carrying on a carter’s business on his own account, and had just worked it up to a prosperous condition. He leaves a widow and two boys, aged 6 and 3 years.
It is exceptionally sad to relate that he has had two brothers killed, Private Henry Lafferty and Corporal Thomas Lafferty, both of the Welsh Fusiliers, and another brother, Private Thomas Lafferty, of the Irish Guards was wounded, and is now a drill corporal at Caterham Barracks.
Sgt William Lafferty is buried in Grave Ref. I. X. 18. in La Brique Military Cemetery No. 2 in Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Sgt William Lafferty, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
Locally, Sgt William Lafferty is commemorated on Macclesfield Park Green, Town Hall, and St Alban’s Church war memorials, and on Prestbury St Peter’s Church and Adlington St John’s Church war memorials.
Brother of Henry Lafferty, who served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was killed in action in France on 5th November 1914; Timothy Lafferty, who also served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was killed in action in France on 16th May 1915; and Thomas Lafferty, who served as Private 3283 with the Irish Guards, was wounded in France, and survived the war.