When the Census was taken in 1901, William and Margaret Bishop had four children – Martha (then 7), George (5), Samuel (3) and Ernest (6 months). They were living at 4 Brook Street, Stockport, later moving to 5 Bengal Street, Edgeley. When he left school, Samuel became a clerk for the London and North Western Railway Company. His job was in the District Goods Manager’s Office at London Road Station (now Manchester Piccadilly).
Samuel enlisted into the army before he was old enough to serve overseas. He joined up at Stockport becoming part of the reserve unit of the local 6th (Territorial) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. His service number, 2969, suggests this was probably towards the end of 1915 or early 1916. After finishing his training he was still too young to serve abroad and was transferred to the 32nd Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. This was a Works Battalion which undertook labouring duties for the army in the UK and Samuel’s transfer will have been around the beginning of 1917.
When he was old enough, he went overseas on active service and joined the Regiment’s 2nd Battalion. On 21 March 1918, the Germans launched their long awaited spring offensive. It came with devastating force and ferocity and, within hours, the British front line had been overrun along many miles of defences. Samuel and his mates were not in action that day and had been held in reserve. However, on the night of 24/25 March, they were ordered forward to take over the defences of several key bridges which crossed the River Somme near Brie and Eterpighy.
Men of “C” Company held the bridge at Eterpighy, but at 7am, they were rushed and driven back . 15 minutes later, they counterattacked and retook the bridge but were again forced back. They never made it back to the relative safety of the main position. By 8am, it was clear that the Germans were across the bridge in force and were moving forward and spreading out. The battalion on the left was now forced out of its position and this left ”C” Company exposed and the Germans started to work their way round to surround it. They managed to withdraw with heavy casualties and then took up a defensive position along a nearby road. The Battalion’s official report on the day records “All 4 platoons of “C” Company obeyed the order to hold out at all costs without retirement. In all 10 survivors escaped after they were surrounded.”
Meanwhile, the German troops who had crossed the bridge had moved down the river bank and were now engaging the men of “B” Company at Brie bridge. “D” Company was sent forward to support them but the pressure continued to increase and casualties continued to mount. Again, the men followed their orders to hold their ground and only a couple of platoons managed to get away and avoid being surrounded.
Sometime during the day, Samuel had been badly wounded. It’s thought that it was only possible to evacuate as far as a dressing station a couple of miles behind the front line where he died the next day.