Louis Cooper SHARPLEY
Rank: Private
Number: 31788
Unit: 7th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 14 November 1916
Age: 26
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

William Sharpley and Edith Cooper married at St Mark's Church, Bredbury, between July and September 1889. Louis' birth was registered sometime between October and December of the same year. In 1901, the family was living at 35 Redhouse Lane, Bredbury (later at 204 Stockport Road). By then Louis had younger siblings - Wilfred (9) and Evelyn (4).

In 1915, Louis married Ellen Grimshaw at St Paul's Church, Portwood and, around the same time, he enlisted into the army.

On 14 November 1916, British troops finally captured the village of Beaumont-Hamel. It had been an objective for the very first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July. The South Lancashires would not be involved in the advance but, during the hours of darkness that had preceded the dawn attack, the men had raided German positions nearby.

It was a large scale raid involving three of the Battalion's four Companies - about 300 men as they were very much under strength. They left their positions at Ovillers Post at 11pm on the 13th and made their way across No man's Land to the German positions known as Lucky Way and the Hansa Line. It quickly became a disaster as the men encountered first uncut barbed wire which hindered their progress and then the German machine gunners and riflemen opened up on them

It was 1am before the first news reached Battalion headquarters. 2nd Lieutenant O'Shaugnessy returned with two platoons from "B" Company and reported that they had got into the German trench and had fought up Lucky Way, clearing it and the enemy dugouts with grenades. The remaining two platoons had been caught by the wire. The men of "A" Company, in the centre of the raid, had all become stuck in the wire and there had been many casualties.

It was not until 3.30 in the afternoon that small parties of men from "D" Company began to arrive back at the British trench, having crawled across No Man's Land. They reported that they had attacked on the right and had managed to get into the German front line trench, but as they made their way towards the second line, they had also been caught by barbed wire and many men had been lost to machine gun fire.

By 9pm, most of the men who were ever able to return were back in the British trenches. Many had hidden in shell holes in No Man's Land until darkness allowed them to make their escape. Only 20 men from "D" Company had returned by the evening. Most of the casualties had only been wounded. Many wounds were severe but the men survived. However, 24 of the Battalion were dead. Like Louis, few have a known grave.

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