Officers, N.C.O.s and Men of the 1st Battalion, Buried in Bruay Communal Cemetery Extension
There are now 412 Commonwealth burials of the First World War in the extension (UK 126, Canada 276, South Africa 1 and India 9).
The extension to the communal cemetery was begun by French troops in October 1914, on land belonging to the Compagnie des Mines de Bruay. The French Tenth Army handed over this part of the line to Commonwealth forces in March 1916, the 22nd Casualty Clearing Station, which was established at Bruay, continued to bury in it. Nearly half the burials in the extension are from the Canadian Corps who occupied this sector from early in 1917.
The Cemetery contains just 10 soldiers of the Cheshire Regiment, including 1 soldier of from the original 1st Battalion.
Grave: F. 20. Killed in Action: 26 April 1917 Age: 35
Personal: Samuel was born in the parish of St. Mary, Birkenhead, Cheshire, in the December 1882, the son of Samuel (Boilermaker) and Elizabeth (née Radford) Tonge. He had a younger sister, Elizabeth, born in 1888.
Elizabeth, Samuel’s mother, died in the September quarter 1898. His father, re-married Mary Ann Comerford in 1908. They had two children, Frederick and Helen.
Samuel cannot be found on the 1901 Census, because he was serving with the Cheshire Regiment in South Africa in 1901 (see below).
When he re-enlisted in 1902 Samuel stood 5 ft. 2½ ins. [1.58 m.] tall, weighed 8 st. 11 lbs. [55.8 kgs.], had a ‘fresh‘ complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. His stated occupation was ‘Labourer‘.
On 8th October 1911 Samuel married Elizabeth Gladys Corlett at the Parish Church, Liverpool. Their Marriage Certificate shows he was living on Peter’s Lane and she was living on Duke Street.
They had two children, Elizabeth Gladys, born 20th July 1912, and Samuel, born 22nd May 1914, both in West Derby, Bootle, Cheshire. (pictured above in later life [Family History site])
The “Register of Soldiers’ Effects” shows that in August 1917 £4 9s 10d [£4.49 – equivalent in value to about £400 today – 2023] was returned to Samuel’s Wife, Elizabeth, of 6 Norton Street, Runcorn, Cheshire. In October 1919 she also received a War Gratuity of £15 10s [about £1,000 today].
On 20th June 1918 Elizabeth also received a Pension of £1 5s 8d per week [£1.28 or about £95 today] for herself and their children. At that time they were living at 5 Woodlands Avenue, Birkenhead.
The 1939 Register shows Elizabeth living with her daughter, also Elizabeth, at 152 Goodwin Avenue, Birkenhead. She died in August 1951 and was buried on the 29th in Southport, Lancashire.
Military History: Samuel re-enlisted at Birkenhead, Cheshire, on 16th October 1902, aged 20 years 11 month. He was already serving in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion [Private 5931].
This Battalion was embodied for active duty in South Africa, with 450 men reported as returning home after the end of the war in September 1902. [Samuel’s CWGC inscription reads: “Served in the South African Campaign“.]
Samuel was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with the Cape Colony and Orange Free State Clasps. By the time his medals were approved, 8th October 1902, Samuel had already re-enlisted.
Samuel’s new period was Service was extended on 17th January 1903 to 8 + 4, i.e. 8 years on ‘Active’ service followed by 4 years ‘Reserve’. He was almost immediately posted to the 2nd Battalion in India and his Service Papers show where he was stationed – mainly through admittances for various medical conditions!
He was in Colaba by 1st October 1904, Bangalore in January 1905, Calcutta in January 1906 and Secunderabad in November 1908 for at least the next two years. Samuel received his first Good Conduct Badge on 8th October 1904 and his second three years later.
As a Reservist he was recalled to the Battalion at the start of the War, but even then extended his Service again, at the end of his 12 years, for a further 4 years (16th October 1914).
At the outbreak of War Samuel was with the 1st Battalion in Londonderry before sailing from Belfast on the SS Massilia for Le Havre on 14th August 1914. He arrived in France on 16th August, confirmed by his Medal Index Card. As a member of ‘B’ Company he saw action at Audregnies on the 24th August, in the centre of the action under Captain J.L. Shore. Samuel was one of the 199 men who answered Roll Call at the end of the Battle.
The “Retreat from Mons” continued for almost 200 miles (c. 320 kms.) until finally on Saturday evening, 5th September came the order: “Pile arms and fall out, we remain here for a few hours.”
During September the 1st Battalion continued to move northwards and Samuel would been in action at the Battle of the Marne and the Battle of the Aisne. On 16th/17th October the Battalion again engaged the enemy at Violaines, where there and the Battle of La Basseée that followed, it suffered 53 Ofciers and men killed in action.
The War Diary shows that on 23rd October the Battalion were in billets at Rue de Bethune, but Samuel suffered: “Shell wound to left hand” two days later and was treated at No. 13 Field Hospital. His Service Papers record another wound “G.S.W. Cheek” on the 30th, though more likely resulting from: ” Battalion in trenches, sniping and artillery fire. Battalion on outposts. Casualties: 4 wounded, 5 missing.” (War Diary, 29th October 1914) Following this Samuel was admitted to No. 1 Stationery Hospital.
On 15th November he was posted to 15 Infantry Base Depot at Rouen, following convalescence, and returned to his Battalion as a “Transport Driver” on 13th December 1914. Samuel’s Service Papers then show little details, until 7th January 1916: “Serving with 1st Battalion“.
From 22nd December 1916 to 11th January 1917 Samuel got leave to visit his family in England. He was back with his Battalion in April and the War Diary records that on the 23rd they were relieved by 16/Royal Warwickshire Regiment and withdrew to Berthonval Wood. The next few days were in billets and on the 26th, the day Samuel died, “… at Camblain L’Abbée, men bathing and Coys. engaged in steadying drills“.
However, Berthonval Wood is near Vimy and Bruay, where Samuel is buried, is near to Bethune, about 30 kms. away. Samuel’s Service Papers do not record any further wounds, but his Pension Record states that he died from “lobar pneumonia” at the 22nd Casualty Clearing Station, at Bruay.
This brave and long serving soldier spent, in total, 14 years 193 with the Colours, not including his service with the 3rd (Militia) Battalion. He had been with the BEF in France since the start, 2 years 226 days.