Bertram SMITH
Rank: Private
Number: 56440
Unit: 16th Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 31 July 1917
Age: 25
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

Regimental records published after the War indicate that Bert was born in Romiley and the birth was registered in Hyde in 1892. He may be the man of the same age who married Ada Crowley in a civil ceremony registered at Stockport in 1914.  They were living in Marple when, in the spring of 1916, he enlisted into the Army at Stockport, joining the Cheshire Regiment (service number 56440). Bert's medal entitlement records at the National Archives show he served abroad with the Regiment before being transferred to the Fusiliers.

As July 1917 drew to a close, the British Army was finalising its plans for a major offensive that would later be officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres (but is more commonly known as Passchendaele). The date of the start of the offensive was still uncertain and the 16th had to go into their assembly trenches on the night of the 28/29th. They were 474 strong - about half normal strength. 14 Army Divisions - over 250,000 men - would go "over the top" at 3.50am on the 31st.

In each sector, the attack would move forward in a series of leapfrogs by different battalions. Two companies of the 16th Battalion were tasked with attacking the German front line as far as a point on the map marked as the "Blue Line". The remaining two companies would then overlap to capture the Black Line.

It was still very dark when the men advanced. It was impossible to pick out any landmarks as they went across No Man's Land but they headed towards where the British artillery barrage was falling, with the officers snatching quick glances at their compasses. There were relatively few casualties even when crossing the German front line, where they came under some rifle and machinegun fire from the left. They cleared some pockets of resistance and secured the position on the Blue Line. The second half of the Battalion now took up the fight moving on towards positions known as Cancer Avenue and Telegraph House, which were well defended with concrete pillboxes. After a hard fight, they managed to capture them and move on to their final objective. 36 men had been killed including Bert and another local man, Edward Hughes.

Further information about Bert can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

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