Rank: Private
Number: 1981
Unit: 1/5th Battalion CHESHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 11 December 1916
Age: 21
Cemetery: Cheadle & Gatley Cemetery

Samuel was born in Heaton Norris, the third son of John and Sarah Ashton. By the time the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information, in the early 1920s, John had also died and Sarah was living at 51 School Street, Cheadle Heath.Samuel had joined the Territorial Army in February 1914 and is thought to have drilled at Cheadle Drill Hall (behind the church). He worked at the Railway Loco Department at Heaton Mersey He was mobilised when war was declared in the August and he volunteered for overseas service. However, whilst the Battalion went on active service to France in February 1915, Samuel did not join them until 1 July. Three weeks later, on 24 July, he received a minor wound. By May 1916, he was back in Stockport for a few days leave. Back at the front, he developed Trench Fever in July. This was a common sickness, caused by lice bites. The symptoms varied from headaches to those similar to typhoid. Recovery normally took place within a few days, but Samuel was in a military hospital until early September.The 5th Cheshires was the Division’s “Pioneer” Battalion – soldiers trained to fight but who had a primary responsibility to construct strongpoints, etc. On 19 September, they were ordered to dig a new trench north east of the Somme village of Combles. This was to be between the Quadrilateral (a German position captured the previous day) and the new German front line at Bouleaux Wood. The trench would be known as “Gropi Trench” – a combination of “Groves” (the Cheshires’ Colonel) and “Pioneer”As soon as night began to fall, officers went into No Man’s Land to tape out the line for the trench and as soon as it was properly dark, Samuel and his comrades went out and started to quietly dig. The Battalion History records “During the progress of the work, the  enemy was quiet and the complete trench, some 1000 yards long, was completed during the night, with only one casualty – a most remarkable performance considering the enemy was close by in Bouleaux Wood”.Samuel was the one casualty mentioned. He had received a wound in the head, probably from shrapnel. After receiving attention from the Battalion’s medical officer, just behind the front line, he would have been evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station, some kilometres behind the front line. Here, he would have received treatment from army surgeons. He may then have spent time in a military hospital in France. Whenever he was well enough to travel, he was transferred to Britain and he was at Netley Hospital, near Southampton, when he died three months later.

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