Samuel was born in 1890, the son of John and Jane. When the Census was taken in 1901, the family was living at 103 Commercial Road, Hazel Grove, the home of Samuel’s grandfather, Joseph Adshead, then aged 68. John, then 28, was working as a labourer and Jane was 29. The Census also records Samuel’s younger sister, Eliza (7) and brother, William (2).
He later married and he and his wife had two children. A keen sportsman in his spare time, Samuel and his young family lived close to his parents until he enlisted in late 1915. Regimental records show that Samuel travelled to Inverness to enlist. Although he doesn’t appear to have had a Scottish background, the appeal of joining a kilted regiment must have added to the sense of adventure which many young men felt when they enlisted. The long journey must have only heightened it. Interestingly, his service number is consecutive to John Openshaw, also from Hazel Grove, although Openshaw’s place of enlistment was Stockport and he was assigned to the 6th Battalion.
The Battle of the Somme opened on 1 July 1916, but the 1st Battalion did not go into action until the 23rd. Samuel probably joined the Battalion after this, as part of a draft of replacements for the 200 casualties. In the south of the battlefield, the advance on the first day had been relatively successful and smaller scale attack over the coming weeks advanced the line still further. Throughout late August, Samuel and his comrades were in trenches, to the rear of the front line, near the villages of Mametz and Fricourt. On the 2 September, they moved to assembly positions in trenches south east of High Wood, ready for an attack the next day.
At noon on the 3rd, they “went over the top” to assault the German trenches, known as Wood Lane, only a couple of hundred yards away. On their right was the 8th Battalion, Berkshire Regiment. To the right of these units, the enemy resistance was strong and little progress was made. But the Highlanders captured Wood Lane, after fierce fighting and were able to press on for another 100 yards, before they dug-in to consolidate the gains. During the afternoon and early evening, there was a series of strong enemy counter attacks, which eventually forced the British troops to withdraw back to their original front line.
After the action, Samuel was reported to be missing. It would not be until June 1917, that the military authorities made an official presumption that he must have been killed. His body was never found and identified and his name is now inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing a few kilometres north of where he was killed. In 1917, the local newspaper published an “In Memoriam” notice from his wife and children (then living at 109 Commercial Road). It probably indicates what actually happened to Samuel (and why he has no grave):-
“There’s a home that’s lonely; a wife’s heart sad
Two little girls calling for their soldier dad
Who fought in the battle, for his country he fell
Defending his home, he was struck by a shell
We think of you in silence
Your name we oft recall
But all that we can see of you
Is your photo on the wall”
Other family members mentioned in the notice were “sister in law, Maria and brother in law, Matthew (in France), 63 Wellington Street, Stockport”, “sister in law Annie, brothers in law, Alfred and James (in Egypt), 43 Wellington Street, Stockport”, “sister in law & brother in law Harry (in Salonika”. Clearly, it was important in these notices for it to be indicated that other men in the family were also serving in the army.
Further information about Samuel can be found in the book “Hazel Grove to Armageddon” by John Eaton