Slim’s Early Life

Slim’s Early Life

Born in 1891, into a family of modest means in Bishopston, then a village on the outskirts of Bristol (now entirely merged in the City’s sprawl), Slim was an unlikely candidate for commissioned service in the Army, let alone one day to reach its highest rank.  He ascribed his interest in soldiering to a journal British Battles by Land and Sea to which his father, an avid reader, subscribed. He was particularly taken by the story of a cabin boy who went on to be an Admiral (Sir Cloudesley Shovell).

The ups and downs of running a small business at the turn of the Twentieth Century were to see the family move to Birmingham, where his father re-established his hardware business.  Young William was fortunate to find a place at a local Catholic Grammar school (his mother was devout; he was to lapse).  His performance at school was unremarkable, his father’s financial position little better and thus his prospects of commissioned service, whatever his dreams, still unrealistic.  However, at the age of 16 he transferred to King Edward’s School where he was to qualify as a ‘pupil- teacher’, teaching at some of the toughest and poorest elementary schools in the city. This early experience undoubtedly shaped him as a leader, never forgetting the challenges and privations from which many of his soldiers had come.

It was through his position at King Edward’s that he was able to join Birmingham University Officers Training Corps and as a result was in a position, at the outbreak of the First World War, to gain a commission.

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