William was born on 2nd January 1881 in Southampton. In 1911 he was living at Oakdene, Highfield Crescent with his father Thomas Cotton, a bricklayer and mother Maria. Also staying at the family home at the time of the census was his sister Florence Oliver and her two young children.
William was 30 years of age, single and working as a shipping clerk. It is likely that William emigrated to Canada in June 1915, landing at Montreal and possibly later moving to Victoria in British Columbia where he enlisted in the Canadian Infantry.
William enlisted in the Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario) Regiment on 29th September 1915 and joined the 54th Battalion. He was killed on 2nd September 1918 in an offensive by Canadian troops to capture the French village of Dury and Mount Dury (or Dury Ridge) which was just south of the village.
William is one of 337 WW1 casualties buried in the Dury Mill British Cemetery, which was initially set up by the Canadians in August 1918 and is about 16 km from Arras. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens who also designed Southampton Cenotaph.
William is also commemorated on the Highfield Church Memorial in Southampton and on the Canadian Virtual Memorial.