Tom Atcherby PUGH
Rank: Private
Number: 31045
Unit: 19th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 23 July 1916
Age: 37
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Tom Pugh was born in Eccles in 1879 and was the second child of James and Lucy. James was successful fancy goods merchant and his business allowed the family the luxury of employing a live-in servant. He would be educated at a private boarding school - Chetwynd in Newport, Shropshire. By 1901, the family had moved to "Holmfield", Ravenoak Road, Cheadle Hulme

Tom enlisted in Manchester in the fourth of the Manchester "Pals" battalions. His service number confirms that he was not one of the Battalion's original recruits who joined in the autumn of 1914. He probably joined the Battalion only a couple of weeks before he was killed. On 9 July 1916, a draft of men from England joined the Battalion as replacements for the casualties suffered in the attack of 1st July

During the evening of 22 July, Tom arrived in assembly positions in a German trench captured earlier in the month. In front of them was Trones Wood and, beyond that, the village of Guillemont. This move forward had been spotted by the enemy who kept up a regular artillery barrage on the Manchesters throughout the night. In the early hours of the 23rd, they moved through the wood and into their final positions.

At 3.40am, Tom left the relative safety of the trench and advanced across open ground towards the village. They were immediately subjected to heavy rifle, machine gun and artillery fire. However, casualties were not heavy until they reached unbroken German barbed wire. Leading elements of the Battalion managed to reach the village. On the left of the attack, "A" Company was suffering massive losses from concentrated machine gun fire and had to fall back. The Company had been reduced to about 30 fit men. In the centre, "C" company made progress into the village but was now attacked from three sides and cut off from the rest of the Battalion. On the right, "D" Company had been unable to penetrate the barbed wire and the men had to try to find cover in the open fields. They were so close to the Germans that they were in grenade-throwing range and came under heavy attack form these. "B" Company was in support of "D" and also lost many men.

By 6am, it was clear that the attack had failed and they would have to withdraw. This had to be undertaken over the open ground with minimal protection. Small groups of men managed to make it back to the assembly trenches, throughout the morning. Of these, only a handful were from "A" Company. No-one from "C" Company reported back. "B" and "D" Companies had fared slightly better.

By late afternoon, the remnants of the Battalion were relieved from the front line. Because it had not been possible to recover the bodies of the dead, some 493 Pals were reported as "missing". Tom's body was never found and identified and he is commemorated, along with some 73,000 Missing of the Somme, on the Thiepval Memorial. Other local men killed in the attack were      Robert Russell, Alan Adshead and Ernest Spink. None has a known grave.

(Updated: February 2008)

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