William Thompson Smout was born locally in May 1886. He was the son of Edward Thompson and Martha Hannah Smout and worked as a steam cooper making barrels.
In 1915, at the age of 29, he signed up with the York and Lancaster Regiment. He later joined the 8th Battalion, also known as the Pontefract Pals.
On July 1st, 1916, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, his battalion engaged in action. At 7.30am, the artillery barrage had lifted and William went over the top. The battalion came under heavy fire and most men were killed or wounded almost immediately. Some of those men who survived fought their way to the third line of the German trenches, but only one man returned from that point. This date witnessed the greatest loss of life in a single day in the history of the British Army.
William’s battalion consisted of 680 men and 23 officers – only 68 men, and no officers, returned.
William’s body was never found, and he is remembered here at Wardsend Cemetery on his family’s headstone.
He is also remembered in the Thiepval Memorial in France, which remembers those whom were missing after the Battle of the Somme and have no known grave.
Researched by Howard Bayley and Katy Walton
Written by Beth Keever