Herbert FLETCHER
Rank: Private
Number: 26893
Unit: 13th Battalion CHESHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 24 May 1917
Age: 35
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

Herbert is thought to have lived all his life in the Stockport area. He had been born in the area and, at the time of the 1901 Census was an apprentice in a local hatworks. By the time of the Great War, he had married and lived with his wife and son at 11 Fogg Street, Higher Hillgate.

His service number indicates he enlisted between May and July 1915, probably going overseas a few months later after training. On 30 April 1917, the Cheshires, part of 25th Division, were withdrawn from the front line and went into reserve. On 11 May, they returned to the battle area at Wulverghem, some 12 kilometres south of Ypres (now Ieper) near the border with France.

The Divisional History records that, in the coming weeks, several small raids were undertaken on the enemy trenches. Trench raids were designed to gain intelligence, to unsettle and kill the troops opposite and to keep up the fighting spirit of the raiders. They were a common feature for both sides.

The raid planned for 24 May would not be a success. The three officers and 80 men divided into three groups. They managed to get across No Man's Land and into the enemy trench without being spotted. The "South" group quickly came across German sentries who promptly, and sensibly, fled up a communication trench to the rear line. One man was found in a dugout and was killed. The other two groups of Cheshires also met opposition. The Germans in their support trench, by now alerted by the fleeing sentries, now opened fire on the Cheshires with rifle grenades. These caused most of the casualties. The official report confirms that 2 soldiers had been killed and another 11 wounded. A further six were missing.

Herbert was one of the six men posted as missing. They had, probably been killed our wounded in the enemy trench. Later records show that three of them, including Herbert, had been killed. It would be usual for raiders not to take identification with them on a raid, so whilst he would have a proper burial by the German Army, it would not have been possible to identify him. As such, Herbert has no marked grave and is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at nearby Ieper. His family had to wait until April 1918 before the War Office was able to make an official declaration that he must have been killed.

Herbert is also commemorated on the Memorial at St Georges Church. Earlier research into the men on that memorial discovered that he had a sister, Alice, who lived at 5 Heath Road. His brothers also lived locally - Harold, at 5 Massey Street, John, at 5 Lorne Street and Joe at 35 Charles Street. John and Joe Fletcher also served in the war, respectively in Italy and Greece. They are believed to have survived.

   
           
   
     
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