Born on 9 May 1884 in Bushey, Herts on 9 May 1884, William John Hallimond was the son of John Greener and Annie (née Foggitt) Hallimond. His parents were married in 1876 in the Darlington, Co Durham, district and initially lived in Durham where his father was a coke, coal and iron merchant.
William’s older sister, Mabel, was born there in 1879 and the family employed 2 servants.
Shortly after Mabel was born, the family moved to Hertfordshire, and William’s birth was registered in the Watford district in May 1884. At around that time his father became involved with the West London Mission, a key Methodist organisation. He became a clergyman, eventually qualifying as a Doctor of Divinity.
At the 1891 census shows Annie, Mabel and William residing at 9, Villiers Road, Oxhey and were ‘living on their own means’. John Hallimond was not present and may already have gone to America, for his family emigrated there the following year, when William was 8 years old. They left Liverpool on 27 February 1892 and sailed to New York aboard the Umbria.
The Umbria was a fast ship, gaining the prestigious Blue Riband in 1887 for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic. She was later chartered by the government in 1887 and used to carry armaments and troops for the Boer War. She was decommissioned in 1910 and broken up for scrap.
In 1900, when William was 16, the family were living in Montclair Town, Essex, New Jersey. However, by1901, they had moved to New York and his father was now involved with The Bowery Mission, a rescue mission located in the Bowery neighbourhood of Manhattan, New York City. It provided food, shelter, medical services and employment assistance to poor homeless men. Supervision of the Mission went to John Greener Hallimond, who introduced many innovative services, such as a home for women in Brooklyn, an employment agency and a breadline, which began in 1902.
William qualified as a civil engineer and may possibly have been a student at Princeton University in New Jersey. By 1910, he had moved to Canada and it was there that he enlisted as a machine gunner in the Canadian Infantry.