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  • Christina Drummond

Private William Kelly, 2nd/9th Battalion, the Manchester Regiment

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Private William Kelly, 2nd/9th Battalion, the Manchester Regiment, was killed at the Battle of Poelcapelle in Belgium during the Third Battle of Ypres. He had enlisted in the regiment at Liverpool.

His battalion had been formed at Ashton-under-Lyne in August of 1914 as a second line unit. They were under the command of 198th Brigade in 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division, and arrived in France in February of 1917.

On the day of his death, at Passchendaele the brigade advanced at 5:24 a.m. in what was to become known as the battle of Poelcopelle. There were twelve Pill Boxes to be captured, little resistance was met at the first one but due to heavy machine gun and sniper fire, heavy casualties were incurred. Snipers also made communication between runners and the battalion headquarters almost impossible. From the war diary: “During the period of our advance, the enemy, after sending up S.O.S Rockets…dropped a light barrage on our assembly line and also shelled our back areas and communicating tracks. Also barrage moved forward with our troops, with the attempt to follow them as they advanced. After this…his shelling of the captured positions was comparatively slight. During the whole of the remainder of the time, during which the Battalion was in the line, the enemy removed his heaviest shelling for the area immediately in rear of our assembly positions, this area was subjected to repeat shell storms by 4.2 and 5.9 Hows. at frequent intervals, this was due to the considerable amount of movement which took place in this area, which was under direct observation by the enemy on the Passchendaele Ridge. At 5.30pm the enemy dropped several barrages, one behind the other, and soon afterwards counter-attacked our lines, but not in great strength. The platoon right of our line…fell back to the Augustus Wood line. At the same time, about 100 men, chiefly of Battalion Headquarters were moved up to the left of our line, which was thus reinforced and succeeded in driving off the counter-attack without giving up any ground. Our line remained in this form until the Battalion was relieved.” The brigade had advanced over what is today the Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Private Kelly has no known grave – he is memorialised on the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing, outside Passchendaele, near Zonnebeke in Belgium.

William, from Liverpool, had just turned 20 years old.

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