Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 43637
Unit: 16th Battalion WELSH REGIMENT
Date of Death: 27 August 1917
Age: 26
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

In the late autumn of 1868, Stephen Blackshaw and Kezia Butler married at St Mary's Church, Cheadle. Over the years they would have at least four children before a third son, Stephen, was born in about 1891. As the others, he was born in Stockport and the family lived for many years at 17 Stafford Street.

Stephen's service number suggests he was not an early volunteer for the army, perhaps joining up in late 1915 or early 1916. There are few details of the day he was killed in action. The Battalion's War Diary is held at the National Archives and refers to a report on the attack undertaken that day, but the report is no longer attached to the Diary. The Third Battle of Ypres (often known as Passchendaele) started on 31 July and almost immediately became literally bogged down. There was heavy rain for several days and the ground, already churned and holed by artillery shelling, quickly turned into a quagmire. But, over the coming weeks, the British Army fought its way forward in a series of "bite and hold" attacks. Many of the large scale attacks succeeded in forcing the line forward but the smaller attempts often failed. The attack on the 27th was one of the smaller scale ones, involving perhaps only 50,000 men from three Army Divisions. The men of the Welsh Regiment attacked at 1.55pm, keeping close behind a protective artillery barrage which rolled across No Man's Land in front of them. However, the barrage moved too quickly for them and they were soon exposed to heavy German fire. Most of the casualties were caused by a single machine gun mounted on the roof of a building known to the Tommies as Pheasant Farm. There was no sensible alternative but to make their way back to the British trench as best they could. Stephen's body was never found and identified and, like many others, it may have simply disappeared into the mud.

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