Of the more than 340 men who died when the Laurentic sank, 69 were buried together in a mass grave in St Mura’s Churchyard in Fahan a few days later, with two other men, Richard Morgan and Thomas Hugh Craig, being buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, Cockhill, Buncrana. For many families however, there is no consolation that might be found in having a grave to visit.
On March 8th 1917 the funeral of William Worsfold was held at St Peter’s Church of England burial ground in Chorley, Lancashire with full military honours. His body had been recovered 300 miles from the scene of the Laurentic disaster, washed up in the Outer Hebrides, about five weeks after the ship sank. William’s family went to great effort to bring him home, transporting him almost 500 miles south to Chorley so that his final resting place would be close to his loved ones.
William Worsfold, a Corporal in the Royal Marine Artillery, was born in Widnes, Lancashire on the 18th of August 1895. His parents Francis Henry Worsfold, a Police Constable, and Emily Louisa Naylor, married in Sheffield in 1877. William was the youngest of their nine children. He was 3 years old when his mother died in 1898, age 41. Francis Worsfold remarried in 1900 to Elizabeth Musgrave and the family moved from Widnes to Chorlton around 1903.
William was a former pupil at the Chorley Technical School. By 1911 he had left school and was living with his family at 14 Springs road Chorlton, working as a Jacquard Card Cutter in a local cotton factory. His father was now a Police Pensioner and he and Elizabeth had 3 more children.
William enlisted on the 5th of December 1912, posted to a Royal Marine Artillery unit as a “Supernumery” soldier. From March 1914 till May 1915 he was stationed on the Africa. Although the Africa was a powerful ship when it was designed, during its constructions revolutionary advances in naval design occurred, so it was obsolete almost from the moment it was completed. By 1914, the Africa was so outclassed that, like other pre-dreadnought ships, it spent much of its service at the heads of divisions of the far more valuable dreadnoughts. Ironically its role was to protect the more valuable ships from mines.
In January 1917, William was a Corporal and Gunnery Instructor aboard the Laurentic.
“LAURENTIC VICTIM. ROYAL MARINE GUNNER’S FUNERAL AT CHORLEY.
The funeral took place, this afternoon, St. Peter Church. Chorley, Corporal and Gunnery Instructor William Worsfold (21). Royal Marine Artillery, whose home was at 18, Garfield terrace, Chorloy. and who drowned the sinking of the Laurentic the end January. The body had travelled nearly 300 miles from the scene of the disaster, and was washed ashore a few days ago on the Western Hebrides, it was conveyed from Mallaig at the beginning of the present week, and arrived at Chorley on Tuesday morning.
A party of six marines, under Co.-Sergt- Major Bradley, arrived this morning from Portsmouth attend the funeral, and to act as bearers. The funeral was also attended the St Peter’s Church Lads’ Brigade, of which deceased was formerly member. The coffin was surmounted by the Union Jack, deceased’s cap and accoutrements. Many beautiful wreaths sent, including one from K Co., R.M the junior non-commissioned officers, R.M.A., and from the Lads’ Brigade. After the coffin had been carried into the church, verse of the National Anthem was sung, and the close of the service the organist. Mr. V. W. Stansfield. played the Dead March in “Saul.” There was large congregation, including Sir Henry Hibbert”.
Lancashire Evening Post Tues 13th March 1917
William Worsfold’s grave, St Peter’s Churchyard, Chorley
Newspaper report in Chorley Guardian 10th March 1917 (with thanks to Adam Cree, historian/researcher)
William Worsfold is commemorated in the Chorley Memorial Album, Astley Hall, Chorley and on the Stockport War Memorial. It is very likely that William’s commemoration on the Stockport War Memorial was due to his sister Elizabeth Louisa who moved to Stockport after she married.
Memoriam notice From Chorley Guardian (reproduced with the kind permission of Astley Hall Museum & Art Gallery).
With thanks to Adam Cree history teacher and researcher – biographer of Susannah Knight and Astley Hall Museum and Art Gallery.
More Than a Name – stories of men from the Stockport area who died in WW1
1891, 1901 and 1911 UK census returns
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk Service Records Royal Marine Artillery
British Newspaper Archive