William Alfred Stanley is one of those names that seems destined to be lost to the annuls of time. Little documentation exists for his early life, but what there is gives some hints at a determined young man.
William was born in London to an Annie Stanley, who lived in the Kentish Town area of the city. At some point, he emigrated to Canada as, according to his wartime enlistment papers, he joined up in Ontario.
William enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 5th November 1915, and was initially assigned to the 44th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry. His troop embarked for England in July 1916, and, on his arrival he was transferred to the 98th Battalion.
It was at this point that things too an unusual turn. With a few months, Private Stanley was again transferred, this time to the 19th Battalion, and then again to the 4th Reserve Battalion from where he was discharged from the Canadian Infantry in February 1917 for being underage.
At this point, William seems to have been undeterred.
The next record for him – in fact the memorial to him – is his headstone. This confirms that he had enlisted in the Royal Naval Canadian Voluntary Reserve as an Ordinary Seaman. He was based at HMS Pembroke, the shore establishment at Chatham Dockyard, but there is no other information for him.
Ordinary Seaman Stanley died on 28th December 1917, at the age of 21. (His previous military discharge might suggest that he was, in fact, younger than this, but that is conjecture on my part.) There is no record of a cause of death and nothing in contemporary newspapers to suggest anything out of the ordinary.
William Alfred Stanley was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, not far from the Naval Dockyard where he had been based.