Richard Rupert SACKETT
Rank: Private
Number: 12730
Unit: 6th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Date of Death: 17 September 1916
Age: 20
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Richard and his older brother, Frederick, died within three days of each other. They also both have their names inscribed incorrectly on the Heaton Moor War Memorial. Their commemoration is on a small addenda panel fixed to the rear of the Memorial which spells the surname as Sacket. All official records, and their commemoration on the main town Memorial at Stockport Art Gallery, has it as Sackett. As will be noted later, when the Memorial was erected, the Sacketts had moved away from the Heaton Moor area and there was probably no-one who could confirm the correct spelling.

The Sackett family do not seem to have stayed for too long in one place. Frederick Sackett and Clarissa Wood married in the Canterbury area in the June quarter of 1889. The following year, their first child, Theodora, was born in nearby Whitstable. Two years later, they must have moved to Herne Bay as Gladys was born there. The mid-1890s found them in St Peters, onn the Isle of Thanet, where Frederick was born in about 1894. The youngest known child, Richard, was born three years later in Ramsgate.

In 1901, when the national census was taken, the family were at 20 Bath Street in Brighton where Frederick, senior, was employed as a manager for a provision merchant. The 1914 edition of Kelly's Directory for Cheshire shows, by then, they had moved to the Stockport area and were living at "Glen Garth" 24 Egerton Road, Heaton Chapel.

Richard has a low service number and, almost certainly, he will have been one of the first to join the newly formed Battalion, in mid-September 1914. He must have had a particular reason for wanting to join the Shropshires, as he travelled to Shrewsbury to enlist. After training, the Battalion went overseas on 24 July 1915. He will have taken part in his first major action at the Battle of Loos in September.

Twelve months later, Richard and his comrades were in the south of the Somme battlefield. The Battle had started on 1 July but the Shropshires had not yet been called on to go into action, although they had undertaken tours of duty in the front line trenches. After a few days rest in billets at Corbie, they moved back into the trenches on the 16th, relieving troops who had carried out a major attack the previous day. They were opposite the German positions, at Lesboeufs, near Waterlot Farm.

17 September was a fairly warm autumn day with temperatures in the low 60s and a small amount of rain. It was a Sunday, but it would not be a day of rest. At about 1pm, large numbers of Germans attacked the Shropshires’ positions. They came on in small groups, mainly throwing grenades, at the sector occupied by “B” Company. The Shropshires fought “like with like” throwing their own grenades and driving off the enemy. During the afternoon, the Germans, supported by artillery and machine gun fire, made several attempts to attack the British trenches but were driven back with heavy losses. During the evening, the Battalion was heavily shelled for half an hour.

Richard was one of 20 men killed during the day and he has no known grave. It is not known if his comrades were able to give him a proper burial. It may be that the grave’s location was lost in the subsequent years of fighting. Or, perhaps, he was a victim of the artillery shelling and there was nothing left of him to bury.

In the early 1920s, when the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information, Frederick Sackett had again moved. Clarissa had died, but he had remarried, to Mary. He was then the landlord of the Black Lion Hotel, Llanfair Talhaiarn, Denbighshire. 

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