William was born in Biddulph in 1897, the son of Arthur Poyser and Mary Elizabeth( née Biddulph). His birth certificate gives his name as William Henry Poyser. Arthur and Mary Elizabeth had married in 1888 at St. Luke’s Church at Onecote-cum-Bradnop. In 1891 Mary was working as a servant in Henbury for John Bostock who was a farmer. She was aged 21 and married. Her brother Frederick Walter Biddulph was also a servant on the farm.
Arthur and Mary Poyser had three children: George, William and Minnie. By 1901 Arthur had sadly died and his widow returned to her parent’s home at Robin Hill, Biddulph Moor.
The 1901 census lists the household as comprising of William and Ann Biddulph, their daughter Mary E. Poyser, aged 30 and a widow, their daughter Dorothy aged 19 and a fustian cutter, their sons Thomas and Herbert, daughter Violet, aged 11, and their three grandchildren: George, William and Minnie Poyser, aged 7, 4 and 2 respectively.
By 1911 William’s mother had remarried and was now living with her husband, Charles Whittaker, at the Mow Cop Inn where Charles was the publican.
William still lived with his grandfather, also William, who by now was 68 years and widowed. He shared the home with uncles Thomas and Herbert, his brother George, aged 17, and his aunt Dorothy Plant with her husband James and their three children, Lizzie, Minnie and Hannah.
William in this census was aged 14 and employed in the coal mines as a horse driver underground. It is believed that he later lived at Mow Cop.
William is believed to have enlisted in 1916 at Tunstall, joining the South Staffordshire Regiment, number 49433. Later he transferred to The Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment, maybe in the field. The unit he was posted to was the 1st/24th battalion London Regiment attached to the 47th (2nd London Division). This division had served in France since March 1915. However Williams’s medal card shows no date when he entered France with either regiment.
The 47th Division had fought in the battles of Aubers Ridge, Festubert and Loos in 1915, and the following years found them in action at Vimy Ridge in April and then in July fighting in the Battle of the Somme, with bitter actions at Fliers-Courcelette, Transloy Ridge and the Butte de Warlencourt. In 1917 William along with another Biddulph soldier, Thomas Charlesworth, would have been serving with the division and fighting in the battles on the high ridge at Messines.
From July the London Regiment were ordered to the Third Battle of Ypres where they found the natural drainage destroyed by shell fire and heavy rain had filled the shell holes with deep stagnant water. The 1st/24th battalion bravely suffered in the attacks in these most awful and unbelievably dreadful conditions on the Pilkem Ridge losing many brave soldiers. By November, William and his mates had left the Ypres salient when the division had been ordered to join the Battle at Cambrai. Again the division suffered heavy losses. A wet cold winter was spent holding their positions in this area.
The enemy offensive in the spring of 1918 brought more heavy losses and many prisoners were taken when the division lost ground. By August this advance had been reversed during the Second Somme battles, and then from August 21st the division began to gain the lost ground and was now in action in the St. Quentin area. It is believed that it was here, on August 30th 1918, that sadly Private William Henry Biddulph fell on the battlefield. William, who was aged 21, has no known grave and is remembered on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial at Haucourt. His pal Thomas Charlesworth is also commemorated there.
Locally, William is remembered on the Biddulph memorials, the memorial at Christ Church, Biddulph Moor and also at St. Thomas, Mow Cop.
Kathleen Walton, Elaine Heathcote and Michael Turnock