In the late autumn of 1891, Samuel Fidler, a labourer, married Ruth Halley in a civil ceremony registered at Stockport. They are known to have had two children – Lily born in 1894 and William born two years later. At the time of the 1901 census, the family was living at 10 Vine Street, Hazel Grove (and, by the early 1920s, at 47 Napier Street.
38th Brigade was a pre-War unit of the regular army but William was not a professional soldier. His service number suggests he enlisted in 1915 and will have joined the Brigade as a replacement for casualties, probably in 1916 when the Brigade was re-organised. At the time it was part of the Army’s 6th Division but, in January 1917, it left the Division’s command and came under a higher level of command and became what was known as an “Army Brigade”. These were units which could be deployed to different parts of the battlefield to provide temporary additional firepower for a Division. Unfortunately, there are no remaining day-to-day records of the Army Brigades and it is not possible to establish the exact circumstances in which William was killed.
However, the date of William’s death and his commemoration on the Tyne Cot Memorial, strongly indicates he was killed during the Battle of the Lys. This large scale German attack was the second phase of their spring offensive and it was very successful in overwhelming the British troops, pushing them back miles. The first day of the assault was 9 April 1918 and, by the end of the day, things were already desperate. The attacks continued over the coming days.
On the 11th, Field Marshal Haig issued a Special Order of the Day to the British troops:-
“There is no other course open to us but to fight it out ! Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end.”
By the 13th, the British had started to counterattack in parts of the battlefield but, for most of the troops, it was another day of relentless pressure from the Germans.