Rank: Private
Number: 26454
Unit: 5th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Date of Death: 24/25 October 1917
Age: 20
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

It is difficult to think of the grief of families who lost a son during the War. It is impossible to know how they must have coped with losing two. But this is what Charles and Hannah Thelwall had to come to terms with. Their eldest son, Frederick, had been killed in July 1916 and just over a year later another letter would arrive from the War Office.

Sam Thelwall had been born in Marple and lived all his life in the village until he enlisted into the army at Hyde. He originally joined one of the territorial Battalions of the Cheshire Regiment and was given the service number 4662. This is a comparatively late number, probably issued towards the end of 1916. Sam will have gone overseas with the Cheshires during early 1917 but was transferred to the Shropshires soon after.

Between the 16th and 21st October 1917, Sam and his mates were in support trenches near Fitzclarence Wood, north of the Menin Road, outside of the Belgian town of Ypres (now Ieper). Although not in the front line, this was still a dangerous place to be, subject, as it was, to enemy artillery fire. 74 men were wounded during this period. On the evening of the 21st, the Shropshires moved forward, relieving another unit from the front line.  Casualties continued to mount during the tour of duty.

The Battalion's War Diary entry for the 24th Records "The enemy showed increased activity in sniping and machine gun fire. Both artillery and aeroplane activity by both sides during day."  The Battalion was relieved during the night to billets at Berther. The Diary records that the casualties for the 24 hour period included 11 men wounded; 1 killed and 1 missing. Sam was the man posted as missing. His body was never found and identified. Perhaps he was blown to bits by an artillery shell. Perhaps as the Battalion was coming out of the trenches, he simply fell into one of the water filled shellholes and drowned. Probably it will now never be known what happened.

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