Michael MCHUGH
Rank: Private
Number: 9555
Date of Death: 7 July 1916
Age: 30 (based on 1901 census)
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Michael was one of the nine children of Michael and Mary McHugh. When the 1901 Census was taken, the family was living at 10 Priory Lane, Reddish. Michael had been born locally and was still living in the area when he enlisted into the army in the autumn of 1914. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission does not list his next of kin so it is not known if he had married by this time. The family history website CheshireBMD does, however, record the local marriages of two men of this name - one in 1907 and the other in 1914.

Michael's service number confirms he was an original member of the newly formed 10th Battalion and will have gone overseas with it in the summer of 1915.

The Battle of the Somme had opened on 1 July 1916, but Michael and his mates were not in action that day. They were held in reserve and were resting near the village of Morlancourt until the 3rd when they took over captured German trenches, north of Fricourt. Next to them was a battalion of Northumberland Fusiliers

At 12.15am on Wednesday 5 July, the British artillery opened a bombardment on the enemy positions known as Quadrangle Trench. Under cover of the bombardment, and helped by the rain and darkness, the Fusiliers crept out of their trenches and made their way across No Man's Land until they were within 100 yards of the Germans. At 12.45, exactly on schedule, the shelling stopped and the men from both Battalions charged the enemy trench. Within an hour, Quadrangle Trench and Shelter Alley had been captured. There had been relatively little resistance, except from the left where they had been met by rifle and machine gun fire. One of the 15 killed was another man, Arthur Catlow.

The next day was spent consolidating the captured position. The Germans shelled them and the Regimental History also notes that there was some damage (and presumably casualties) caused by "short shooting" by the British artillery.

A further attack was scheduled for the early hours on the 7th. The Fusiliers' objective would be Quadrangle Support Trench. As it's name suggests, this had been some way behind the original German front line but was now the front line itself.

Attempts had been made to shell the enemy positions, but the trench was over the crest of a hill and it had not been possible to accurately gauge the range. As the troops attacked, at 2am, they found the barbed wire in front of the German positions to be uncut. They became briefly pinned down by heavy German rifle and machine gun fire and, also, by British shells now falling short. About 4am, the Germans launched a counter-attack, driving the Fusiliers back to their starting point.

Later in the morning, "A" Company was sent to assist a Battalion of the Welsh Regiment which was holding on to a position on the edge of the village of Contalmaison. These were also forced to withdraw later in the day. Michael was one of 76 men to have died. Like him, few have a known grave.

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