William PORCHER (POACHER)
Rank: Private
Number: 31420
Unit: 8th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 21 October 1916
Age: 26
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

The Poacher family had lived in Hazel Grove for many years and it would be reasonably expected that, when it came to erecting the War Memorial, sufficient care would have been taken to ensure the correct spelling of names. But not in William's case - somewhere in the process, an error was made and his name is inscribed as "Porcher". The correct spelling is confirmed by the 1901 Census entry and other official records. However, there are local church records which have recorded the name as Porcher (and the name of F Porcher is included amongst the World War 2 dead of Marple and Macclesfield).

The 1901 Census records the family living at 32 Brook Street. Head of the household was 50 year-old William Poacher, a railway platelayer who lived there with his wife Hannah. At home were seven children - 26 year old Sarah Ann Dean was already a widow; James (21), Charlie (18), Nellie (16), Hannah (14), William (11) and George (2).

William's army service number is not an early one and it is probable that he had not been at the front for many weeks before he was killed. The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July and the Battalion had suffered many casualties during attacks in July and August. It is possible that William joined as one of a group of re-enforcements.

The Battle had ground on throughout the summer and well into the autumn with small advances being eventually successful but at great cost in casualties. Fierce fighting had taken place during successive attacks on German held positions in Stuff Trench and Regina Trench. Orders were issued for another attack, by the troops of the British 25th Division, which included the South Lancashires and the 13th Cheshires. This was to take place on 19 October, but it was postponed due to bad weather.

At noon, on the 21st, the attacking Battalion's "went over the top" following closely behind a rolling artillery barrage which kept the Germans in their dug-outs until the British were upon them. Grenades were thrown into the dugouts and, within 10 minutes, prisoners were being sent back across No Man's Land. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting took place as the British worked their way down Regina Trench and its offshoots and many Germans were bayoneted.

Regimental records published after the War show that 34 men had been killed in the attack. Several of these, including William, were originally posted as missing. Their bodies were never recovered from the battlefield and identified. The Regimental History suggests that the numbers missing were "probably due to the impetuosity of small groups who pressed on into the maze of trenches beyond their objective. Their exact fate has never been disclosed." Certainly William's body was never found and identified.

Further information about William can be found in the book "Hazel Grove to Armageddon" by John Eaton.

   
           
   
     
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