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McNally, W., Sergt., V.C., M.M. and Bar 1914-18 (1976)

Photo : Bacon and Son

Medal Index Card

William 'Billy', McNally was born the 16th December 1894 at 39 Green Street, [his grandparents house], Murton, County Durham, one of 10 children of Jonathan McNally, (born 1870, Southwick, died 20th June 1947), and Mary [nee Holmes], McNally, (born 1872, Murton Colliery), who were married on the 7th November 1891, at St Andrew and Holy Trinity mixed Church, then at Murton, they resided at their Grandparents house. William was baptised at the Holy Trinity church at Murton on the 1st September 1897 with his sister Elizabeth.

Six of their children died. Peter baptised 26th February 1905, died 5th September 1905, Albert, born in February 1907, he died 13th November 1907, Mary Ann, baptised 31st May 1908, died 10th April 1909, Margaret, born 17th September 1909, baptised 10th October 1909, Mary Ann born born and died 5th January 1911, Richard, born September 1893, died November 1893, William and his older brother John, born 11th October 1891, [served in WW1, 6th Battalion, Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment], Isabella, born 31st July 1901, and Margaret, born 1910, Elizabeth, born 1897, died in March 1900 and Mabel born December 1911 baptised 14th January 1912, were all residing at 39 Green Street, Murton Colliery in 1901 and 1911. His father worked as a coal hewer at Murton Colliery and his two sons followed him into the mines.

William was educated at Murton Colliery School. After leaving school in 1908, he was employed underground as a pit pony boy at Murton Colliery, which was owned by the Seaham Coal Company.

William attested on the 3rd September 1914 at Sunderland for three years or for the duration of the war. Aged 19 years and 9 months, he was 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighed 124 lbs, had a fresh complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. On the 16th September he was posted as a Private, service number 13820, to the 11th then to 'A' Company, 10th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment.

In 1914, his family had moved to 11 Shipperdson Street, as William was granted 10 days leave after completing his training. On April the 29th April, he was posted from the 11th to the 10th Battalion. William was posted to Aylesbury, before returning back to Halton Park. In August 1915 the battalion moved to Witley Camp. On the 9th September the Battalion was at Boulogne after boarding at Folkestone. William was now in 'A' Company.

At the Battle of Loos, at 3.00 pm the 8th Battalion East Yorkshires and 10th Battalion Yorkshires of 62nd Brigade, 21st Division, were ordered forward towards Loos, to reinforce the units of 15th Division and, if necessary, retake Hill 70. They marched from the village of Mazingarbe along the Lens road. Here they were stopped by a Military Policeman, who ordered them to proceed in open formation as they were entering a battle zone.

After coming under shrapnel fire as they marched in column of fours - which destroyed their transport - these battalions lost direction and ran into intensive machine gun fire from the southern end of Chalk Pit Copse, sustaining very heavy casualties. William was wounded on 29th September with a gunshot wound to his hand. He was admitted to the 14th General Hospital at Wimereux.

He returned to the UK on the 1st October to recover in the Brook War Hospital, Shooters Hill at Woolwich. He was given leave from 19th to 29th November 1915 to visit his family.

On his return William was posted to the 11th Battalion, but on 12th December 1915 he went into the 2nd Battalion, then 'B' Company, 8th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. They were in the 69th Brigade, 23rd Division.

On Monday 10th July 1916: the 8th and 9th Green Howards (69th Brigade) assembled in and near the northern part of Horseshoe Trench on a front of 1000 yards, 2000 yards west of Contalmaison. Two companies of 11th West Yorks, (69th Brigade) were sent to Bailiff Wood to make a flank attack. At 4.30 pm, under fire of all kinds, the Green Howards captured the village of Contalmaison, the numbers of the 8th having been reduced to 5 officers and 150 men. A flank attack by the West Yorks caught the retreating Germans with rifle fire, and they joined with the Green Howards at 5.30 pm, the attack having taken one hour in all. Source : The Somme Day by Day Account, Chris McCarthy, 1993 ISBN 1860198732.

Award of the Military Medal. 20th July Sgd H. Wilson, Lieutenant Colonel, A.A. & Q.M.G., 23rd Division.
When his officer was wounded during the assault of Contalmaison, on 10th July, William remained with him and tied him up under fire and subsequently reached the firing line by himself.

Newcastle Journal Monday 11/09/1916

"Murton Colliery.
Military Medal Award. Private William McNally, 8th Yorkshire Regiment, son of Mr and Mrs J. McNally, 11 Shipperdon (sic) Street, Murton Colliery, has been awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery on the field, and since gaining that honour has been wounded for the second time, and now lies in hospital."

He returned to the UK on 12th August 1916 to recover from gun shot wounds to his right leg.

After recovering from his wounds, he was sent back to his battalion on 10th January 1917.

On 14th June, William was back in the UK at the 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester. (The 2nd Western General was a General Hospital. The HQ was based at Whitworth Street, and it was also located at more than 20 other sites in Manchester and Stockport, most being school buildings. There was a total bed capacity or more than 16,000).

William was given leave on 26th July until 4th August 1917 to visit home. He returned to his unit on 8th September 1917. On 3rd November 1917, he won a Bar to his Military Medal near Passchendaele. On three separate occasions, William rescued men who had been buried or wounded by enemy shellfire in the trenches. He was asked whether he would like a public presentation of the M.M. bar, or whether the bar should be sent to him in the post. William requested the latter.

From 8th November 1917 the Battalion was transferred to the Italian front. William finally returned home on the 20th February 1919 where he was demobilised as a Class Z reserve.

On the 24th June 1920 William married Elizabeth nee Hallimond, at the Dalton-le-Dale Holy Trinity Church.

Elizabeth was born 21st March 1897 and died in March 1984. She was the 2nd daughter of Thomas, (born 1871 East Murton) and Sarah Hallimond, (born 1871 at Monkwearmouth).

In 1901 Elizabeth, and her parents were residing at 60 Albion Street, East Murton with their grand parents.

On the 11th November 1920, William McNally was included in the VC Guard of Honour for the interment of The Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.

In 1939 William was residing at 2 Gray Avenue, Murton Colliery, Durham with his wife and son Jonathan McNally, born 15th April 1923 and William McNally born 8th July 1932, died 2009, and Doreen born 1927 died 1992, and two other children.

In June 1940, when Britain was once again at war, William McNally joined his Local Defence Volunteers in Murton as a Sergeant. Promoted to Lieutenant in 1941, William McNally served in both the 13th and 26th Battalions Durham Home Guard, until the Home Guard was disbanded in December 1945.

William McNally died in 1976, Elizabeth died in 1984.

He is remembered in Murton on M47.03, M47.05, M47.09, M47.13 and M47.14

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk