Claudius STEPHENSON
Rank: Captain
Number:
Unit: 12th Battalion CHESHIRE Regiment
Date of Death: 2 November 1916
Age: 27
Cemetery: Karasouli Military Cemetery, Polikastron, Greece

Claud Stephenson was named after his late father. His birth was registered at Chorlton (now part of Manchester) between April and June 1889. The family history website, FreeBMD, only records the death of one man called Claudius Stephenson. This death was registered at Tadcaster between Janaury and March 1897. This 58 year old man may well have been Claud's father, who is known to have died by the time of the 1901 Census.

The Census records the family living in Cheadle Hulme. No mention is made of Claud. The family were clearly financially comfortable so it is possible that he was away at boarding school. Apart from his mother, then aged 35, the Census lists his sisters, Stella (15), Norah (8) and his brother, Douglas (10).

During 1904, Stella remarried. She married James Smith at St Mary's Church, Cheadle. After the war, in the early 1920s, Stella Smith had moved away from the Stockport area and was living at 41 The Square, Fairfield, Manchester.

As a young man, Claud had graduated from Trinity College, Dublin and, when war was declared, he was studying for an entrance examination to join the Indian Civil Service. He quickly volunteered and, as with many middle class recruits, he was selected to become an officer. The 12th Cheshires went on active service a year later in September 1915 and Claud is thought to have then been a 2nd Lieutenant.  After only a few weeks, the Battalion was transferred to the Salonika theatre of war in Greece, where it would spend the next three years fighting the Bulgarian Army. Claud was promoted to temporary Lieutenant and, on 28 April 1916, he was again given temporary promotion to Captain. He would now command a company.

On 28 October 1916, the Battalion was in trenches at Ardzan. It was planned to raid the enemy's trenches, opposite. This was a relatively common occurrence designed to gain intelligence, kill the enemy and, also, to keep up the fighting spirit of the troops. Under the command of Captain W H Barff, six officers (including Claud) and seventy soldiers would creep across No Man's Land in the raid. Another 170 men would protect each flank of the attack. They left their trench at 19.15 and were in position some way into No Man's Land by 20.30. The Battalion's War Diary describes what happened:-

"The left flank guard encountered a hostile patrol of about 30 men endeavouring to outflank the party from the direction of Crete Des Tentes and drove it back to the enemy trenches. Our main raiding party, divided into three groups, assaulted the enemy's position at 20.54 and succeeded in entering the enemy's trenches for 20 minutes in the face of serious opposition from rifle fire, bombs and trench mortars. The two groups on the right were compelled to withdraw owing to their losses in a heavy bombing encounter with Germans. The third raiding party had meanwhile succeeded in bombing down the T trench of the Nose for 70 yards; after bayoneting 2 Bulgarians and bombing a dugout, they found the Germans had manned the trenches to the rear, so withdrew through a passage in the wire. All raiding parties were clear of the enemy's wire by 22.40 and the whole party reached our lines at 23.00. Our casualties were 5 officers wounded, 3 Other ranks killed, 1 Other Rank died of wounds, 26 Other ranks wounded, 2 missing."

Claud had been seriously wounded by a grenade (bomb). He would have been evacuated from the battlefield to a Casualty Clearing Station, someway behind the front line,  where military surgeons would have done all they could to save his life.

Colonel A H Clegg-Hill , commanding the 12th Cheshires, wrote to his mother "I very much regret to have to tell you that your son died on the 2nd inst. from wounds received in action on 28th October. He was hit by a bomb whilst leading his men into the enemy trenches. I had great hopes that he would recover from his wounds as he seemed so cheerful and bore them with such fortitude, his only anxiety being for his men, several of whom were killed or wounded. In him, we have lost not only a sincere friend, but a very gallant officer. The example which he set was worthy of the greatest admiration and his death came as a great shock to the whole Battalion. He was buried yesterday in the presence of as many officers and his men who could be spared and both the Divisional and Brigade Commanders were present. On behalf of the whole Battalion, I wish to convey to you their deepest sympathy in your great loss."

   
           
   
     
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