William Hamer was a successful businessman, owning a Lancashire cotton mill and was a Justice of the Peace. The 1901 Census records him living at Birch House, Stockport Road, Ashton-under-Lyne. His wife had died by then but his six children were living at home. Samuel, then aged 16, was the youngest. William’s income was sufficient for him to employ two live-in servants. The older male children were pursuing their own careers. Frank Hamer, for instance, was an articled clerk at a solicitor’s. He would become a local councillor and was killed on 7 June 1915 whilst serving as a Captain with the 9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment. After the War, the Council mounted a small brass plaque in his memory at the Town Hall. It is now at the Regimental Museum in the same building.
Samuel had been born on 25 September 1884 and was educated at Manchester Grammar School. He worked as a salesman, possibly also in the cotton trade. At some point, he married Helen and they moved to live at “Methven” in Romiley. A man with a keen interest in the military, he had been Quartermaster and Honorary Lieutenant of the 1st Cadet Battalion of the Manchester Regiment for some years. He continued with this this voluntary role until he joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps on 20 September 1915. He received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant on 23 April 1916 and was posted to the 26th Northumberland Fusiliers – known as the Tyneside Irish. Samuel saw heavy action during the Battle of the Somme in the summer and autumn of that year. On 12 October 1916, he was granted three weeks sick leave as he was debilitated after “severe PUO”. “PUO” is “Pyrexia of Unknown Origin” and generally manifested itself as a fever
On 9 April 1917, Samuel led his men into the attack on the first day of the Battle of Arras. He was now an Acting Captain and was in command of the one of the Battalion’s four companies. The Battalion was not in the first wave of the attack in this sector and was held back ready to support the 24th and 25th Battalions. The attack commenced at 5.30 and, about 30 minutes later, the 26th was called on to go forward to re-enforce the attacking units. The attack was generally successful.
Samuel was originally reported to have been killed during the attack but there is a note in his service file to indicate this was subsequently changed to the 14th. It’s not known why this was the case – perhaps he had been reported as missing after the attack but managed to report back in later. Over the coming days, the Battalion consolidated its gains and, on the 14th, sent out patrols to within 300 yards of the German positions at Oppy Gavrelle. They reported that the area was not strongly held, although there was a lot of barbed wire in front of the enemy trench. The Battalion’s War Diary, held at the National Archives, notes that enemy snipers and machine gunners in the village were very active and it seems likely that Samuel became a casualty of one of them.
New of his death would come quickly to Romiley but settling his affairs would take some time. His estate was valued at £1998 – nearly £75K at today’s prices. The final note in Samuel’s service file dates to 1931 and concerns an unnamed child. Mrs Hamer appears to have made a claim to the “Lord Kitchener National Memorial Scholarship Fund” for assistance towards funding the child’s further education.