The Battle of the Somme: in Remembrance of Samuel Ravenscroft

This blog post was written and researched by Nicole Cleary, a volunteer at Archives+.

On 8 November 1915, a young twenty-two year old soldier in the Manchester Regiment named Samuel Ravenscroft departed for the First World War. He left behind his parents Joseph and Margaret Ravenscroft, and many, many siblings. Samuel’s parents had married on 7 February 1876 at the ages of twenty and eighteen, respectively. They had eleven children, ten of whom lived on past childhood.

Margaret was kept busy: she had her first child Margaret Ann in 1878, George in 1880, Lucy in 1882, Maud in c. 1884, Eliza in c. 1887, Bertha in 1889, Joseph in 1891, Samuel in 1893, and then twin boys, Stanley and Norman, in 1895.

By the time Samuel was born, his father seems to have settled firmly into the grocery business as a fruiterer, after working various stints as a hawker and an innkeeper. A look at the 1911 census paints a picture of a bustling family business led by the father Joseph: Margaret (now in her early fifties), her older daughters (in their twenties), and the teenaged twins, Stanley and Norman, worked as shop assistants. Joseph Jr., just a year older than Samuel, drove a van to deliver both furniture and fruit. Samuel, seemingly, was the only one who attempted to pursue a path outside the family fruit business. He had taken up a student teacher post at the age of eighteen. The elder children, Margaret Ann, George, and Lucy, had by this time left home.

Samuel’s older sister, Maud, would not leave home until several years after this census was taken: on 17 October 1915 at the (self-reported) age of twenty-seven she married a young engineer named James Whittaker Adams who at twenty-two was (supposedly) five years her junior. Maud seems to have lost a few years between the census and her wedding, however, as she is recorded in the 1901 census at the age of sixteen, and in 1911 at twenty-six. As she had been baptized in December of 1884, it seems likely that James’ new bride was closer to thirty-one than she was to twenty-seven, and the age gap closer to a decade. Nevertheless, Samuel acted as a witness to his older sister’s wedding. And less than a month later on 8 November he left for war.

Samuel first joined as a private in the Machine Gun Corps of the Cheshire Regiment before being promoted to lance corporal. He served for nearly eight months in the 16th battalion before being killed in action at the young age of twenty-three on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. He was one of almost 58,000 allied casualties of one of the largest battles Britain had ever fought.

He is fondly remembered here by his friend W.D. Lawson of the British Expeditionary Force.

WD Lawson

The records show a W.D. Lawson winning several medals as a Lieutenant in the Machine Gun Corps, as a Captain in the Royal Artillery, and as a Major in the Machine Gun Corps. It seems likely that he and Samuel either met at or entered into the Machine Gun Corps together and became close friends.

Samuel is also remembered here in a loving poetic tribute by his father, mother, and large family.

MEN Monday 2 July 1917

There are two entries found in the Register of Soldiers’ Final Effects revealing Samuel’s father receiving a war gratuity on Samuel’s behalf, totaling about 15 pounds 1 shilling and 1 pence. For his service Samuel was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal on 3 September 1920. He was also awarded the 1914-1915 Star on 6 March 1920. Samuel is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial in France along with 72,193 other officers and men who lost their lives in the Somme battle sector between 1916 and 1918.

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