Tom Hamilton STANSFIELD
Rank: Private
Number: 41498
Unit: 18th Battalion LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 26 March 1918
Age: 39
Cemetery: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France

Tom was born in Manchester but spent most of his early life in Stockport. He had attended Brentnall Street School and won a scholarship to Stockport Technical School. When he left school, he went to work for the London and North Western Railway Ltd at Heaton Norris station and, later, at London Road in Manchester (now Piccadilly). He was also a member of the Stockport Conservative club.

Aged about 21, he moved to Middleton where he established a pawnbroking business and also dealt in clothing and furniture. When the census was taken in 1901, he was living at 33 Long Street, Middleton. He was recorded as being the head of the household and his mother and two brothers lived with him. In his spare time he was a member of the local Conservative and Cricket Clubs. Tom enlisted into the army in 1916 and went overseas in the early part of 1917. Later in that year, he will have seen major action at the Third Battle of Ypres.

On 21 March 1918, the Germans launched an overwhelming attack against British forces in the area of the 1916 Battle of the Somme. Within hours, the front line had been captured and the British Army was in retreat. Tom and his mates were in reserve at the time but, on the 23rd, were ordered forward to take up a defensive position near Maricourt. This village had been one of the starting points for the attack on 1 July 1916. On the 25th, the expected German attack was delivered about 11am. The Regimental History records that "confused fighting followed in which every available man, including the clerks and cooks of brigade headquarters, was used to stem the flood." At 6pm, orders were issued for the whole British line in this sector to withdraw by 1am on the 26th. The 17th & 18th Battalions of the Fusiliers would act as rearguard for their Division. This was successfully completed and the 18th took up a new line near "Happy Valley" - an area which had been a rest camp in 1916.

"The Germans were not slow in following up the withdrawal and the first shell arrived about 9.30am. A little over an hour later, mounted German scouts appeared on the ridge to the east of the road, followed by larger bodies of troops who advanced with evident caution but soon began to probe various parts of the new line. By now, the troops were very short of rations, water and ammunition. The weather was hot and the long marches they had had to make since they detrained at Corbie had given many men sore feet, though the trouble was to some extent lessened by the finding of a quantity of socks in a deserted ordnance store. At about 1pm, the Germans attacked the whole of the line held by the Brigade. Again, confused fighting occurred for several hours........"

During the afternoon, the troops received orders for another withdrawal. In the early stages, the 18th Battalion was nearly cut off in the Bois de Tailles, west of Bray, and was only rescued by prompt assistance from the 17th Battalion. By late afternoon, the troops had been expecting a rest, but the Germans continued to press them and they had to continue the retreat until evening when they able to take up a position on the outskirts of Buire.

At some point during the day, Tom was killed. His body will, no doubt, have been buried by the advancing Germans once the fighting had died down. Of course, they would have had little interest in trying to identify the bodies and this will account for why Tom has no known grave.

   
           
   
     
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