Daniel RYAN
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 205048
Unit: 7th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Date of Death: 28 March 1918
Age: 31
Cemetery: Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

When the national census was taken, in the spring of 1901, Daniel, aged 14, was living with his parents, James and Mary, at 2 Delauney's Road, Stockport. He was the only child living at home but it's not know if he had other older siblings who may have married and moved away. He was then serving an apprenticeship to a hairdresser.

In 1906, he married Lillian Haycock in a civil ceremony at Stockport and they are thought to have set up home at 21 Great Portwood Street. When War was declared in August 1914, Daniel was not an early volunteer and it may have been early 1916 before he joined one of the Territorial Battalions of the Cheshire Regiment. His service number, 2922, is certainly consistent with recruitment around that time.

Daniel's medal entitlement records are available on-line at the National Archives and these make no mention of the above Cheshires' service number. It does, however, record that he served overseas with the Cheshires and his service number was 265965. All Territorial soldiers were re-allocated six digit service numbers at the beginning of 1917, confirming that he didn't go overseas before this. The number is one allocated to Stockport's local 6th Battalion. At some point, perhaps after recovery from a lengthy illness or wounds, Daniel was transferred to the Shropshires. It will have been decided that, at the time, they were more in need of replacements than his original unit.

A major German attack in the spring of 1918 had long been predicted by the British High Command and preparations had been in hand for some while. The attack duly arrived on the early morning of 21 March. It came with devastating force and along a very wide front of nearly 50 miles.

At 8am, the Shropshires were ordered forward to take up a defensive position in the reserve trenches. As they moved forward they had to pass through a barrage of gas and high explosive shells which caused many casualties. They held these positions, under continued artillery assault until the early hours of the 23rd when they received orders to withdraw. By now, the German attack had overwhelmed the forward positions and the British army was in full-scale retreat across the whole front.

On the 24th, the enemy again bombarded the Shropshires' positions and followed this up with an infantry attack which was driven off. Another assault as made in the afternoon. The following days were relatively quiet and the troops took the opportunity to improve the defences.

At 5.15am on the 28th, the German infantry again attacked after a heavy bombardment. This was driven off but another attack by far larger numbers came on at 7.15. These troops managed to get into the Shropshires‘ trenches between the sectors held by "B" and "C" Companies. They started to work their way along the trench system throwing grenades in front of them to attack the British troops. On the right, "C" Company managed to hold the Germans up for some time until their own grenades ran out and, now reduced to only 25 men, had to retreat through the trench system.

On the left, "B" Company barricaded the trench and held off the German for about 90 minutes until they were surrounded. Only about 15 managed to escape, the remainder being dead or captured.

Meanwhile "A" Company, in the support trenches, held on until about noon when their right flank became exposed as neighbouring troops were forced back. To avoid being surrounded, "A" withdrew about 300 yards to a sunken road and the other support company, "D", followed. The remnants of the Battalion now prepared this position for defence and held it until the night of 29/30th when they received order to further withdraw.

Since the German attack had started, the Battalion had lost 51 men known to have been killed, 183 wounded. A further 160, including Daniel, were "missing" and presumed to be dead or captured. Daniel's body was never found and identified.

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