Frederick HAMILTON DCM
Rank: Corporal
Number: 19748
Unit: 41st Company MACHINE GUN CORPS
Date of Death: 20 September 1916
Age: 24
Cemetery: Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L’Abbe, Somme, France

Frederick was named after his father who, in 1901, was aged 44 and was living at 25 Athol Street, Stockport. His mother was Mary Ann and he had a sister, Isabelle, who was then 17.

He worked at Greg's mill until, in December 1914, he travelled to Ashton under Lyne to enlist into the army. He was assigned to the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade and was given the service number of 7625. He will have gone overseas with the newly formed Battalion in May 1915.

On 30 July 1915, Frederick undertook an act of great bravery for which he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. This was near Hooge just a couple of kilometres outside the town walls of Ypres (now Ieper).

On 19 July, Royal Engineers exploded a large mine underneath the German trench. It created a crater 20 feet deep and threw up spoil, forming a lip 15 feet high. This strategic new feature was immediately occupied by troops from the Middlesex Regiment. German counter-attacks were halted by British artillery.

On the 29th, Frederick and his comrades took over the positions on the crater lip. At 3.15am the next morning, the Germans themselves exploded a mine and the British troops were horrified to see jets of flame shooting across at them from the enemy trenches. They were experiencing the world's first use of flamethrowers. German artillery now opened up on the front line and support trenches as a prelude to an infantry assault.

The award of the Medal to Frederick was officially published in the London Gazette in its edition of 14 September. The citation reads "For conspicuous gallantry and ability on 30 July 1915 at Hooge. When his own machine gun had been knocked out, he mounted another, the detachment of which had been disabled and fired it at the enemy attacking from the rear. When the water failed, he filled the water jacket of the gun from the men's water bottles, kept the gun in action and finally stopped an enemy's bombing attack with his fire."

His officer, Lieutenant Le Blane-Smith wrote at the time "I am very pleased he is the first man in the Battalion to get the DCM which he most nobly deserved. I must say I am awfully pleased the way the machine gun section behaved; they really did exceptionally well, especially as most of those around were cowed by the awfulness of the liquid fire. Hamilton is so modest; he never says anything about himself and it is all the nicer, therefore, to feel he will now go through life with one of the most coveted things in the world - a medal for outstanding bravery."

Not long after this, he was home on leave, arriving back in Stockport on 5 October. He was taken ill shortly after arrival and was admitted to Ward B4 at the military hospital on Greek Street. It cannot have been that serious as, on 15 November, he was able to leave hospital for a while to marry his sweetheart, Ethel Taylor. The service was held nearby at St Matthew's church, Edgeley. Many of his fellow patients were able to attend as guests and they bought the couple a "handsomely framed picture representing a squadron of the Fleet, entitled British War Dogs".

Frederick was an experienced machine gunner and he will have been an obvious choice to be transferred to the Machine Gun Corps Company attached to the same Brigade as his unit. In the Battalion, he would have operated a light Lewis machine gun, but the Corps had 16 heavy Vickers guns per Company, each with a seven man team.

The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July 1916 and, in a serious of subsequent attacks, the British line had been advanced. 15 September was designated for another assault which would later be called the Battle of Flers. The role of the machine gunners was to support the infantrymen. Some of the gun teams would go forward with the attacking battalions to give close support. Others would remain in the British trenches firing a barrage onto the German trenches, over the heads of the British troops.

At 6.20am, the infantry "went over the top". In Frederick's sector, the attackers were men from the Kings Royal Rifle Corps and from his old unit, the 8th Rifle Brigade. They had captured their objective by 7am. The Company's War Diary records no details of their involvement but notes that two guns were put out of action and eight men had been wounded. Across the battlefield, the attack was pressed home the following day and another four men from the Company were wounded.

Frederick was one of the 12 who had been wounded during the two days, most probably by shellfire. He was evacuated, by train, to a Casualty Clearing Station (field hospital) at Heilly Station about 20 miles away. There military surgeons would have done all they could for him but he died on the 20th.

   
           
   
     
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