Stanley Micklewright FLETCHER
Rank: Private
Number: 26329
Unit: 7th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Date of Death: 18 November 1916
Age: 20
Cemetery: Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

Stanley was one of six children of Alfred M Fletcher and Annie Marinda Fletcher. Alfred was a joiner by trade and was active in the local Great Moor Co-operative Society, acting as its Secretary and, later, Treasurer. The family lived at 42 Great Moor Street (and, later, at Cherry Tree Lane).

Stanley had three sisters - May, Annie and Elsie. His two brothers would also serve in the War - Alfred would become a corporal on the Cheshire Regiment, whilst Harold served with the Machine Gun Corps. They are thought to have survived the fighting.

He was educated at Great Moor School and the family worshipped at St Saviour's Church where Stanley had been a past member of the choir. It's not known how he earned his living but, as an older boy, he had been a lance corporal in the St George's Drill Company, in his spare time.

Stanley originally enlisted into the Cheshire Regiment and was allocated to the reserve unit of the 4th Battalion, with 4420 as his service number. The number suggests he probably enlisted in the spring of 1916, going overseas some weeks later after training. It's known that a large batch of men who trained with the Cheshires were reallocated to other units almost as soon as they arrived in France and this is, almost certainly, how Stanley came to be with the Shropshires.

Regimental records published after the War indicate that he died of wounds received and he is buried in a Cemetery used by the military base hospitals scattered along the Channel coast. As such, it cannot be known when he was injured but the Battalion had been in action only five days before.

Towards the end of July, the Battalion moved into reserve, for a period of rest and to undertake training. Between 4th and 12th November, specific training was carried out for its part in the forthcoming Battle of the Ancre. 7th KSLI was to assault the village of Serre, one of a series of fortified strongholds that had prevented the British advance on 1 July. Artillery had been shelling the German positions since 11th November with the intention of cutting the barbed wire.

The Regimental history describes the attack on 13 November  "Thick fog was spread on the ground and at zero hour (5.45am), the morning was as black as the darkest midnight. In the pitch darkness and through deep mud, it was difficult for the best-trained soldiers to keep direction and the troops all along 3rd Division front lost touch. The heavy state of the ground on the 8th Brigade front made it impossible for the tanks to operate and they were withdrawn from the attack. About 8am, as it began to get light, a thick fog made conditions no better; and at eleven, when the fog began to clear, it was found that all units had lost direction and were hopelessly mixed."

53 soldiers had been killed in the attack. A further 150 were wounded. It seems very likely that Stanley was one of the 150. He would have received attention from the Battalion's own medical officer, just behind the front line before being evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station. These field hospitals were situated perhaps 20 miles behind the front line, out of range of German artillery shells. Here, military surgeons would have stabilised his condition before a further evacuation to Etaples.

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