b. 01/01/1876 Glasgow, Scotland. d. 27/08/1916 Aldershot, Hampshire.
William Young (1876-1916) was born at 74 Wynford Street, Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland on 15th January 1876. His father was Samuel Young, a contractor’s labourer. His mother was Mary nee Tracey, and both of his parents hailed from Ireland. They had married on 22nd April 1872 in Girvan, Ayrshire. The family moved around a lot before his father died in 1895, and his mother re-married to Joseph McIlroy. William had three siblings: Samuel, Catherine Ann and Margaret.
William was educated at St Mary’s RC School in Maryhill. He was employed as a labourer until he enlisted in the East Lancashire Regiment in May 1899. He was discharged to the Reserve in August 1902 and was an outdoor labourer at a sewage works in 1911. He then worked as a general labourer at Fulwood Barracks, Preston.
William married Mary Ellen Simmons on 21st June 1902 in Preston. They had nine children: Catherine, William, John, Mary Ellen, Margaret Ann, Elizabeth Alice, Thomas, Samuel and Frederick. William transferred to the Section D Reserve in May 1911. He was employed at Preston gas works when he was recalled on 5th August 1914 and went to France on 14th September to join the 1st Battalion. He was wounded by a bullet in a thigh at Ypres in November and was gassed in spring 1915. His eyesight was so badly affected he did not return to the front until December.
On 22nd December 1915, east of Fonquevillers, France, Private Young saw from his trench that one of his company’s NCOs was lying wounded in front of the wire. Acting without orders and heedless of his exposure to enemy fire, he climbed over the parapet and went to the rescue of his sergeant. He was hit by two bullets, one shattered his jaw and the other entered his chest. Undeterred, he went on and, with another soldier who came to assist, brought the wounded sergeant back to safety. Later Private Young walked back to the village dressing station to have his injuries attended to.
As a result of his wounds, he was evacuated to hospital at Rouen on 22nd December and then to England, where he was treated at Exeter, London and Aldershot. He underwent fourteen operations, including having most of his jaw replaced by silver. Released from hospital on leave on 19th April 1916, he arrived in Preston to a civic reception. The Mayor, Alderman Harry Cartmell, arranged for a horse and carriage to convey him to the Town Hall, but soldiers from the local volunteer force unhitched the horse and pulled the carriage. He was met by his children and Colonel Voyle, representing the East Lancashire Regiment, who called for three cheers before he was pulled home to Heysham Street. He kicked off a charity match at Deepdale on 24th April in which Preston won 6-0 against munitions workers from Dick, Kerr & Co.
William was re-admitted to Exeter Hospital on 25th April and returned home on leave again in June for 10 days. He was then admitted to Cambridge Hospital, Aldershot for a final operation, which was completed successfully on 26th August, but he had a reaction to the anaesthetic. His wife was notified by telegram that her husband was dangerously ill and she arrived late that day. Tragically he died at 8.55am the following morning (27th August 1916) without regaining consciousness. His body was returned to Preston and he was buried in Preston (New Hall Lane) Cemetery. He is the only VC to have died and been buried in Britain during the Great War.
The VC was presented to his wife by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 29th November 1916. Preston raised £522/8/11, which was invested to give his widow 10/- a week from the interest. She moved to 61 Lovat Road, Preston. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His son, William, presented the medals to the Regiment on 7th July 1985. They are owned by the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment Museum and are on loan to the Museum of Lancashire, Preston.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: QUEEN’S LANCASHIRE RGT MUSEUM, PRESTON, LANCASHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: PRESTON CEMETERY, PRESTON, LANCASHIRE.
RC PLOT 5, ROW C, GRAVE 10.
Kevin Brazier – William Young VC Grave and Cemetery Map.
Martin Allen – Image of the William Young VC Stone in Preston, Lancashire.