1. Memorial:Talana Farm CemeterySp. Mem. I. E. 8.
2. Website:Comrades Lodge No. 2976.
3. Book:The (1921) Masonic Roll of Honour 1914-1918Pg.124
4. Memorial:The (1940) Scroll - WW1 Roll of Honour48A GQS

Awards & Titles:

Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
1914 (Mons) Star with clasp
British War Medal
Victory Medal

Family :

William was registered born at Rotherhithe in the first quarter of 1886 (9th January?) in the Parish of St. Olave, Southwark and was fifth son of Thomas Bennett Halliwell, a Leather Currier and Martha Elizabeth Johnson (b.1857) of 11 Thurland Road, Bermondsey.

In 1891, William appears on his first census aged five and resident at 76 Ilderton Road, South Bermondsey with his widowed father and siblings: Archibald (b.1880), Herbert (b.1882), Albert (b.1883), Ernest. His grandfather, William, also a Leather Currier and native of Manchester, and grandmother Mary, a local lass, were also living with them, no doubt to help their son cope following the loss of his wife Martha early in 1891.

In 1896, his half-brother Sidney was born by Lucy Dobbs who Thomas took as his second wife, marrying at St. James’s Church, Bermondsey on the 16th April, 1892. A second half-brother, Stanley was born 1897.

William attended St. Olave's Grammar School in Southwark until being compelled to quit his formal education at the tender age of 14 years. His school master wrote: 'That the extension of this boy's scholarship offered him by the County Council should be refused by his father is much to be regretted. Further scholar training would certainly fit the boy for a much better position than can now be open to him.' The school no doubt saw some potential in him.

By 1901, the Census report that the family are still resident at 76 Ilderton Road. His brother Herbert was no longer at home and only Harold and Sidney were still at school. The remaining siblings were all working as commercial clerks.

Service Life:


Unit / Ship / Est.: 1st Battalion The Rifle Brigade 

1st Battalion August 1914 : at Colchester. Part of 11th Brigade in 4th Division. 23 August 1914 : landed at Le Havre.

Action : Other actions in Spring 1915 

The official dates cover the period from 15th June 1915 to 8th August 1915. This is the period on the Western Front following the piecemeal engagements North of the La Bassee canal at Aubers Ridge, Festubert & Givenchy but before the Battle of Loos, the largest Western Front battle of 1915.

Detail :

Halliwell signed up to become a regular soldier and became No. 228 Halliwell serving with 1st Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's Own). He was elevated in rank and was a Sergeant at the time of initiation into Comrades Lodge, being stationed at Meeanee Barracks, Colchester in 1912. Shortly afterwards William was mobilised and disembarked at Le Havre, France on 23rd August, 1914 moving forward to become part of the opening actions of the Great War at Mons and experiencing the hardships in the subsequent retreat through France to the River Marne.

He also witnessed the famous Christmas truce of 1914, writing home to describe how our men and the Germans exchanged all sorts of things, from food to cigars, and how they had nearly managed to arrange a football match, 'but the English officers vetoed this.' He also described the horrendous conditions: ‘The trenches are in general 12 to 18 inches deep in liquid mud, and in some places, 2 to 3 feet of water. "Booby-huts" or funk-holes collapse and the walls of the tenches fall in. My hands, hair, clothes, coats, etc., are caked in mud; only my gum-boots have saved me from being soaked through. The cheerfulness of the men is wonderful, as they have no boots to protect their legs or feet ...'

An informative summary of his wartime career is to be found in a local newspaper obituary notice: “Company Sergeant Major William Halliwell, 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade, who was killed on 6 July in Flanders, was but a few weeks back the recipient of the Military Cross at the hands of his Majesty the King, the honour being awarded for bravery exhibited in December. It is sad to think that so soon after receiving high honours the distinguished young non- commissioned officer should have met his fate. Sergeant-Major Halliwell, who was 28 years of age, and a son of the secretary of the South-East London Licensed Victuallers' Society, enlisted in the Rifle Brigade 11 years ago, and rapidly rose to the rank of senior non- commissioned officer of his company.

When war broke out he was at once ordered to the Front, and on August 20 went with his battalion, which formed part of the 11th Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division. The battalion helped to cover the retreat from Mons, and was terribly cut up, losing a large number of men. On 19 December [1914], Sergeant- Major Halliwell was again in a severe action, and after two of his men had been killed in an attempt to establish a line of communication to the front trenches, he volunteered and was successful in his attempt, although exposed to a very heavy fire. It was on that occasion that the Master of Kinloss, his Captain, was killed. He was home for a few days in the middle of June [1915], and that leave was extended to enable him to receive his M.C. at the hands of his Majesty on Waterloo Day, 18 June.

The first intimation of the sad event was received by a friend to whom he wrote that on the next day he was to take part in a piece of work more dangerous than any he had previously been engaged in. He added, 'I do not expect to come through it alive,' and on the back of the letter he had written, 'I hope you will never receive this I have entrusted it with a friend.' Then his father received his watch, and on Monday morning a private communication came from the Front that at 6.05 a.m. on the 6th [July] Sergeant-Major Halliwell and an officer led a bayonet charge against the Germans in an important trench. He was shot and was ordered to retire. He took no notice, however, and went on, but almost immediately afterwards he was fatally injured. His jaw was penetrated and the bullet passed through his neck piercing the jugular vein. He died almost immediately. Before he left home after receiving the Military Cross, he said, ‘I shall never come back wounded and I mean to get the V.C.’ Those who witnessed his bravery on this fatal occasion declare that he eclipsed the efforts which won him the D.C.M. [sic] and that he was most deserving of the honour he coveted."

There are no Service Records to be found and were possibly destroyed in World War II.

Company Sergeant Major William Halliwell was killed in action on the 6th July 1915 in the service of his King and his Country and is "buried near this spot" near a special memorial where his name is commemorated at Talana Farm Cemetery in Boesinghe, Ypres, West Flanders.

William Halliwell was awarded the Military Cross, for reasons that are not fully known to us, but the Military Cross is only awarded in recognition of Courage in Junior Officers. Although this is not formally recognised in the 1921 Masonic Roll of Honour, it is detailed on his grave and was printed in the London Gazette on 18 February 1915. He was decorated with this medal on 18th June 1915. The War Record of the 1st Battalion, The Rifle Brigade states that the above reward was for 'very good work throughout, especially on 19 December [1914].' And in the same month the G.O.C. reported: 'This N.C.O. volunteered to take a message back to 'B' Company during the action after two men had been killed in the attempt and returned immediately to the firing line under heavy fire. He has worked hard and conducted himself gallantly throughout the campaign.' Mention in despatches London Gazette 17 February 1915.

Halliwell's medals were put up for auction in the United Kingdom in 2004. Described as a "superb 1914 operations Great War M.C. group of four awarded to Company Sergeant-Major W. Halliwell, Rifle Brigade, who was killed in action near Pilkem on 6 July 1915 Military Cross, G.V.R., in its case of issue; 1914 Star, with clasp (228 Sjt., 1/Rif. Bde.); British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. oak leaf (228 A.- W.O. Cl. 2, Rif. Brig.), with related Memorial Plaque (William Halliwell), extremely fine (5) E1800-2200 M.C." His portrait image which matches one shown in a newspaper clipping, was included as part of the sale.

His brother Ernest was lost at Passchendaele 12th October, 1917.

Masonic :

TypeLodge Name and No.Province/District :
Mother : Comrades Lodge No. 2976 E.C.Essex

17th June 1912
15th July 1912
21st October 1912

Listed as 287A in the Comrades Lodge Register of Members. He was initiated as a Sergeant into Comrades Lodge on 17th June, 1912, passed 15th July, 1912 and raised 21st October, 1912. Recorded in the Minute Book 1903 – 1919 Pages 152/153 & 156 (I, P & R). His name is also commemorated in the 1921 book Masonic Roll of Honour 1914-1918, and in the shrine room at the United Grand Lodge of England Headquarters, Great Queen Street, London.

Source :

The project globally acknowledges the following as sources of information for research across the whole database:

Additional Source:

Last Updated: 2021-03-03 12:02:11