Samuel HADFIELD
Rank: Private
Number: 24646
Unit: 7th Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment
Date of Death: 7 June 1917
Age: 32
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

Samuel was born in the Lees area of Oldham, but the family had moved to the Stockport area when the National Census was taken in 1901. His parents were James (then 48), who worked as a stone breaker as part of group of labourers working on road maintenance, and Hannah (also 48). He was their only child. In 1904, he married Ellen Sweeney at St Matthews Church, Stockport. They are thought to have set up home at Shelmerdine Yard, off John Street in the town but, by 1917, were living at 10 Dukinfield Place on Middle Hillgate. They had three children by that time and Samuel was working as a carter for Ormesher and Sons.

Samuel originally enlisted into the Cheshire Regiment and was allocated 36498 as his service number. This is consistent with him enlisting in the early part of 1916. There is no record, at the National Archives, of Samuel serving abroad with the Cheshires and it must be presumed he was transferred to the King's Own on completion of training.

Planning for the Battle of Messines started a full year before. The British plan was to tunnel under the German lines and lay mines at 22 different points, which would then be exploded together. It would completely destroy large sections of the German front line, allowing the British infantry a relatively easy advance to capture the Messines Ridge. Zero hour was eventually set for 3.10am on 7 June.

The 7th King's Own was in the front line, waiting for the whistles to blow to signal the advance. The Regimental History describes the explosion of the mines (which could be heard in London) - "The three in front of 7th King's Own appeared as three great columns rising out of the earth and growing higher and higher until orange and green and yellow flowers seemed to emerge from their brown stems. Then, bursting into shapelessness, the mass began to lurch and falling debris, earth and stones rained down. The whole proceeding, although it took less than a minute, appeared to the watching troops to take an eternity. When the earth ceased to fall, every gun opened fire."

Finally, the whistles blew and Samuel and his comrades climbed out of their trenches, advanced across No Man's Land, and took their objectives without much difficulty. The shock of the explosions had completely unnerved the Germans and many surrendered. In the late afternoon, the Battalion took part in the final stage of the attack at Oosterverne, before digging in for the night. The attack had been a complete success and had advanced the British line by 2.5 miles.

It is not known what happened to Samuel or, even if his body was ever recovered and identified. If he was buried by his mates, the location of front line grave was lost over the remaining period of the war and his name is now inscribed on the Memorial to the Missing at Ypres (now Ieper.)

   
           
   
     
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