In the late 1880s, Joseph Hopwood and Eliza Hadfield married at All Saints' Church, Marple. When the Census was taken in 1901, they were living at Elmley Street and had four children - Fred, then aged seven, had an older brother, Francis and two younger sisters, Bertha and Effie. Another older brother, Walter, is not listed on the Census and must have staying with relatives or friends at the time.
When War broke out, Fred was living in Clare, Suffolk having moved there for his work, believed to have been as a labourer for one of the railway companies. He enlisted into the local Suffolk Regiment. His original service number, 265976, suggests he was attached to its 6th Battalion and this was not earlier than the beginning of 1917. It was for training purposes only and, before going overseas on active service, he was transferred to the West Surreys.
31 July 1917 would see the opening day of what would later be officially designated as the Third Battle of Ypres. People know it better as Passchendaele. Fifteen Army Divisions - 270,000 men would attack, striking northward from Ypres (now Ieper). Fred and his mates, part of 123rd Brigade in 41st Division would attack north of the Ypres-Comines canal towards the village of Hollebeke.
They went "over the top" at 3.50am. The ground was boggy and very difficult to cross due to the many shellholes. But, this aside, there was minimal opposition and the first and second objectives were captured with relative ease. As they moved on towards the final objective they came up against enemy pillboxes for the first time. These concrete strongholds were well garrisoned and equipped with machine guns. An attempt was made to rush the boxes but the heavy ground meant speed and surprise were impossible. The men now withdrew to the captured second objective and "dug in" to consolidate the gains. It had been a successful day, but one that had seen fairly high casualties. 200 men of the Queen's had been killed, injured or were missing. Fred was amongst the missing.
News that Fred had not reported in would have come quickly to Mr & Mrs Hopwood, now living at 6 Church Street. One of the myths of the Great War is of the postman knocking on the door to deliver the dreaded telegram. In fact, only officers' deaths were notified this quickly. For other ranks, it was a slower letter that would bring the bad news. When a man was missing, the War Office would write and tell the family, but it would take up to a year before they could conclude that he hadn't been taken prisoner and must have died. Mr & Mrs Hopwood were still waiting for this final formal notification about Fred when news came of Walter's death. Fred's body was never found and identified.
Further information about the brothers, including photographs, can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.