Name of Researcher / Enw’r ymchwylydd: Mavis Williams
Name of Memorial / Enw’r gofeb: Connahs Quay
Name / Enw: Welch, Samuel
Regiment/Catrawd: Royal Welsh Fusiliers 1st Bn.
Service Rank and Number / Rheng gwasanaeth a rhif: Private 5696
Military Cemetery/Memorial / Fynwent milwrol: Le Touret Memorial
Ref No Grave or Memorial / Rhif cyfeirnod bedd: Panel 13 and 14.
Country of Cemetery or Memorial / Gwlad y fynwent neu gofeb: France
Medals Awarded / Medalau a ddyfarnwyd: Victory British War and 1915 Star medals
Date of Death: 16th May 1915
Date and Circumstances of Death / Dyddiad ac amgylchiadau marwolaeth:
Killed in Action 16th May 1915
Many thanks to Daphne Swann for the photograph
Samuel first appeared in a census in 1891. He was living with his family in 3 rooms at Quay Road, Connah’s Quay. The head of the household was George Welch a 30 year old corn miller who hailed originally from Hitchin in Hertfordshire. His wife was Annie 27 and their children were Samuel 3 and Mary 8 months. (Annie and the children had all been born in Hawarden, Flintshire)
The next census of 1901 proved difficult. The enumerator had recorded the family name as ‘Walsh’! Annie was then a widow aged 36, (her husband George had died in 1898 aged 38). She was a ‘laundress’ on ‘her own account’ and she had two boarders living in the house. Her children were Samuel 13, Lenard 8, Edward 6, Minnie 3 and George 2. They were living in Williams Terrace, Saltney Road, Hawarden.
In the 1911 census we learn that Annie 46, had remarried in about 1905. Her second husband was William George Reeks. He was 36 and came originally from Hackney in London. He was working as a ‘pickler’ in galvanising at the iron works. They were living at 55 Nelson Street, Shotton. They had two children together – Florence Elizabeth 4 and Mary Catherine 1. Living with them were step children Samuel 23 a ‘doubler’ , Leonard 17 and Edward 16 both ‘scrap cutters’ (all in the ironworks). Minnie 13 and George 11 were still at school. The household included 2 boarders both ironworkers.
Samuel was married on 17th April 1911. He married Ann Dutton 21 whose address was given as 2, Mold Row Connah’s Quay. He was recorded as Samuel Welch a bachelor and ironworker who lived at 55 Nelson Street, Shotton. Samuel and Ann ‘s first child was George William and he was baptised on 10th January 1912 at St Ethelwold’s Church Shotton but tragically he only lived for 25 days. His funeral was on 16th January 1912. The family at that time was living at 42 Jubilee Street Shotton. Their next child was named after his father. Samuel jnr was baptised on 4th May 1913 at St Ethelwold’s Church.
UK Soldiers who died in The Great war 1914 -19 accessible on www,ancestry.co.uk confirms Samuel’s regimental details above. It adds that he enlisted in Wrexham and it is this source that tells us he was ‘Killed in Action’.
Samuel’s medal card also accessible on ‘ancestry’ gives us his medal details and also tells us that his first ‘theatre of war’ was France and that he entered it on 11th January 1915.
Samuel Welch in the UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 tells us that the sole Legatee was his widow Annie who received his War Gratuity of £3 on the 18th July 1919
Thanks to Bill Tyrell, who allowed me access to the Minutes of the the Conservative Club Shotton where in a meeting on the 9th October 1916 the committee voted to give financial help to sixteen widows of the area. Mrs. WELCH, Ashgrove, Shotton, was one of those widows, they were each given 5/-. Please click on the link to read the names of the others who were mentioned in the minutes.
Samuel’s Letters from France. I was privileged to be given access to Samuel’s letters from France to his wife Annie and baby son Samuel.
I am very grateful to Daphne Swann (Annie’s granddaughter) who kindly lent me the letters . Annie eventually remarried after Samuel’s death and Daphne is a descendent of that second marriage. These letters have now been deposited in the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, which is in Wrexham.
I have taken extracts from the letters and transcribed them here on this website. I have quoted his own words in italics and have tried to write exactly as he did (with his own spelling mistakes and lack of punctuation). I have entered in bold the names of the Soldiers that Samuel mentions. A number of them are local men. I have paraphrased and interpreted some sections of the letters.
Samuel set off for France on the 11th January 1915 and was killed on the 16th May 1915.
This could be one of the first letters dated Saturday 1915.
“Dear Wife & Son,
Just a line hoping you are both keeping alright as it leaves me at present by the time you get this letter I expect I shall be in the firing line so my address will be the one above I have only had one letter from you yet but it is only what we can expect as the letters get lost so send us one pretty often if it is only a PC to let me no how you are all going on and put us a sheet of paper in each one you send so that I can return it have you heard any more about my watch you must keep it it is for our lad and no one shall have it send me a news paper as we cant get one as they are all French and I cant read that I am doing alright hear with my clippers cutting hair at 2p time I could just drink a pint of Pattins Ale now I haven’t had a drink since I was with you so we haven’t got anything to spend our money in hear I will let you no how money I get hear I have only had 8/4 yet so you can keep account if anything should happen. If I get a chance to buy anything hear for Baby I will send it but I wont be sure so I think I have told you all this time will write again as Parry & Whitworth gone from Wrexham yet. From your loving Husband Sam x x x x Love to all x x x x X”
This could be his second (dated 13th January) as he refered to being seasick all the way over to France. It had been very rough on the water. They had been on the boat since 5o’clock Monday till 10 Wednesday and he hadn’t had a bit of food since he left Wrexham or a wink of sleep but he was getting better. “It was a fine site coming across to see all the ships.” He went on to say that everybody had been sea sick they had to laugh at one another. He was going to drop Annie a line to let her know what battalion they had joined. “I was sorry we left so soon but we didn’t know until we got back on Sunday night, I will write to you again as soon as we get settled down from your loving Husband Sam x x x x “
Dated 20th January 1915 on YMCA Headed notepaper, Samuel said that he had sent 6 letters since he had been in France, but hadn’t had one from Annie. He expected that they were a long while getting through. He said they were all right but it was very cold and wet to be sleeping under canvas. He asked Annie to send him a newspaper and a few envelopes and writing paper. He wanted Annie to send him a letter by return and let him know how she and the baby were and ” all the people at home” He asked her to try and send him a box of Woodbines as they were the only cigs they couldn’t get. Samuel went on to say that there were a nice lot of boys from Staffordshire and they were getting plenty of good food and he had only got one pal there and that was S. Bennett. He finished ” So I think I have told you all this time from your loving Husband Sam.” Underneath Samuel wrote ” Send us a letter to cheer us up a bit, this is the address 5696, 1st Batt. R.W.Fus., 7th Division, Base Depot, Roun, France “
27th January 1915 Samuel wrote to Annie saying that he hoped she was keeping well as the letter left him the same. He told of receiving her letter on Monday and the parcel on Wednesday. He was all right there. They were with all the boys from Shotton, G Williams J. Cartwright, S. Holden, D Jones and S. Aston. Samuel said that G Williams told him how Ben got his wound. He (Sam) had been inoculated and he had got a fine arm. “There is some very bad weather near up to your body in clay and mud.” He goes on to say that it made it much easier for them now they were with all the men they knew. “How is the Baby going on now I should think he will soon be working if he is as big as you say.” ” Will write again when my arm gets better. Your loving Husband Sam x x x x”
Friday 12th February 1915, Samuel explained about the missing letters that Annie was asking about. He explained that he sent one to her the day before they go into the trenches, as they couldn’t send one when they were in for 4 days and 4 nights. They couldnn’t send one till they had been out one day. “I am sitting in the trenches writing this and I have to nock off very often when these Jack Johnsons are flying over our heads and bursting all over the place it puts me in mind of the 5th of November to see the the villages on fire and all kinds of fire works at night, well I am pleased we are having a bit of dry weather now for it has been very bad you would laugh to see us pull one another out of the clay we have been up to our waists in clay and water we will be going into the trenches on Sunday night for our nest 4 days & nights. I am glad the work is going on better I expect they will be working 2 days a week when I come home I shall drop a line to A. Hazledine so I will draw to a close with love to all at home from your loving husband Sam x x x x x x x Baby x x x x x x”
Short letter written from the trenches dated 15th February 1915 Samuel says that he had received Annie’s parcel and letter and when he opened the parcel ” I thought the Germans was making a charge on me for a pick of the cake so I made it go round as far as would.” He said he would drop a letter later on as ” there was too many Jack Johnsons flying overhead so we must look what we are doing.” “Excuse it being so short with love from your loving husband Sam x x x x Love to Baby x x x x”
Samuel wrote this letter dated Sunday 21st February 1915, after receiving 2 parcels, one with the cake in and the other with the belts and socks, adding that he had just had another one that day, “with a cake and pomade in so I can tell you I shall enjoy my Sunday tea today with having a cake and some milk in my tea I am glad to have the pomade.”
Samuel’s letter on a YMCA letterheading was dated Sunday 28th February 1915. He hoped the letter found her and Baby in the best of health. The letter left him ” just middling” as he had a nasty sore throat and “something come into my mouth, I think it’s them absessis again and I cant bear my false teeth in my mouth. I shall soon want a new set as I have broke some more.” They were having a rest from the trenches for a few days. They had some very bad weather over the previous week with frost and snow and they couldn’t keep themselves warm. “The sooner they get some warm weather then it will be a treat hear .” Samuel comments “I say someone as been writing home and saying we are getting starves for food, they should be horse wiped for we are getting better fed than they ever did in any war before, there is no doubt we do get some good food, we get plenty of bacon for breakfast and its just the sort I like, its smoked and some good cheese, there is enough food thrown away to feed another Battalion but of course some want roast beef chicken such big dinners I can tell you I enjoy my little drop of rum we get it in the morning it is not like you get it in a pub there is no water in this it don’t take much to make a man drunk. It is hard lines on me losing my Pal S. Bennett he is in hospital ill I hope it isn’t going to be anything serious.” “You would have laughed to see us running the other day the germans tryed to shell us out of our billets they did not upset us much we kept on singing all the time they wear shelling so you can see we don’t trouble a lot about the germans theres only one thing they won’t come out in the open to fight we shall give them something to go on with so I think I have told you all this time from your loving Husband Sam x x x x x x Baby x x x x x x x”
A letter dated 21st March 1915 tells Annie that Samuel hopes his letter finds them as well as he is keeping. They were having fine weather it being like midsummer. They were enjoying themselves “up to the mark” having boxing, football and concerts and anything they could find to pass the time. Annie had asked him to get something for the baby, but he told her there were no shops like that, only ones to buy some tasty bits for their tea. He went on to mention Howard and to ask him what he thinks of Everton now and to tell him that Sheffied United would win the Cup. He asked her to ask him if he’d back the winner of the Lincoln and the Grand National. He asked how work was going and ” to tell Papa to draw Samuel’s Balance this week and to give the Scrap Lad 2/6 pocket money.” He asked if “our” Ted had joined the Army yet, ” it is getting time he did.” Once again he asked if Annie had heard anything about S. Bennett. He comments that he will never think so much of him again if he is at home, saying “he thinks he has landed now he is not hear” . There is a Samuel Bennett who was killed the following year, 1916, and whose name is on the Connah’s Quay & Shotton Cenotaph.
This letter dated 29th March 1915, Samuel stated that he hadn’t had a letter from Annie for a fortnight, and couldn’t understand it, but he had received 4 lots of papers. He thought the letters must have been delayed somehow. They were having a good rest this time out as they had been out ( of trenches) for 10 days so they were not doing so bad and were enjoying some very nice weather. Samuel mentioned once more S Bennett not letting them know where he was as they had got some letters for him. As he was away from the trenches he supposed that S. Bennett thought that “we don’t want to no wear he is.” Samuel said that he had written a letter to Mr. Robinson at Shotton Church. Samuel told Annie that he expected she would be told of a Service in the Church for them, “it might be this Sunday or the next so tell Papa to go and hear him.” They had had a grand concert the previous night, something along B. Green’s stile and they were having a boxing competition that day. Samuel asked Annie to send some Epsom Salts and the News of the World. He was going to drop her a line before going to the trenches.
Good Friday 2nd April 1915. “No Ester Eggs” written across the top of the letter. Samuel told Annie that the letter had left him in the best of health and he hoped the letter found them the same. He had received her letter and 2 papers, but had hoped there would be a hot x bun in the letter. He said that he had received a very nice letter from Mr. Robinson, the church who had told Samuel that he was going to have a special service on Easter Sunday for the men that were at the front from Shotton. Samuel’s letter goes on ” I see a letter in the paper from Ted Jones at the Front, he tells them of the hardships we have had this winter he says the Germans have all most cooked their sausage they will have no sausage to bake when we have done with them we shall make them think their Birthday has come.”
Saturday 3rd April 1915 Samuel was answering a letter from Annie that he had received late the previous night and he was surprised to hear they at the Club wanted to know what he wanted. ” Well I could do with many but you no we cant carry a lot with us, we must carry as many Pills as we can to fire at Germans. Well its no use of them sending any clothing now the warm weather is hear they can send me a nice pipe in case in remembrance of the members and as many cigarettes Cake, Coffee Chocolate and some handkerchiefs* as they like and if you think of any little present they can send tell them I wish them every success this Easter Monday, they will be dancing with the Lady’s and I shall be thinking about the fine time we had last time but tell them we shall have a good one when we all come home, .I have thought many times about the good drink I had 4 years this good Friday.”
* In another letter regarding hankerchiefs, he said that they must not send white as they didn’t want the Germans to think they were giving up!
7th April 1915 Samuel told Annie on a postcard that they had just come back from having a bath. They’d had to walk 9 miles, ” but that we would walk anywhere for one and a clean change of clothes, you should see the Girls that wash our dirty clothes, no wonder the French actresses looking so well on the stage they are like oil paint hear. I was fairly had with the Easter Egg I thought it was chocolate but was surprised when I opened it we fairly made the smoke fly last night, I should send the egg back with something in but we cant sent parcels so easy from hear.”
9th April 1915 Samuel told Annie to tell Frank that he gave the egg to a little girl ” she almost went soft I don’t think they have seen anything like that hear before.” Samuel told Annie he hadn’t been able to find J. Cartwright until that day as they have been billeted a long way from them ” but when we did see each other we had a good smoke, and to tell Papa he sends his best respects”. He said they had smoked a many of them together.
One letter that is undated but must have been around Easter as Samuel mentioned Good Friday “I was surprised at them lot you met on Good Friday I have heard quite enough about them by a man that as come with the last Draft when you meet them again you keep your head up above them I didn’t break my false teeth to stop me from going to fight for my King and Country I would sooner be shot by 10,000 Germans than be a Coward I shall write a letter to Mr Haswell and he will let them know about laughing at the Wifes of the men that are at the front if I had my way I would make them come out hear and have a winter like I have had and I am quit willing to do it again before we should get beat. S. Bennett is quit bad now he isn’t hear but they can all do as they like as long as I am happy and in good health. I am pleased to hear Ted Bunnell is at home I am glad he has told you how Ben got wounded.”
Samuel thanked Annie for the Echo and Chester papers that she had sent. In a letter that he must have written early after his arrival in France, he talked about a ship that had gone down and he thought she would have been upset thinking they might have been on it, “but we have better luck than that, we won’t get drowned or shot.” Samuel said that “I would sooner be in Shotton but we are here to do some duty and I shall do mine as long as I can stand up to it.”
In another letter Samuel wrote ” You should have seen me doing a bit of cooking in the trenches, I got all the spare jam and biscuits and I made some jam puddings and the men enjoyed it fine, this has been the happiest 4 days we have had in the trenches for a long time.” In the same letter he mentioned about Annie sending him a bit of pork pie. ” I say they have got hold of some of men that were so fond of laughing at me and Ben going to do our best for the country, so I am glad they have made them start to do their share.”
This letter referred to the fact that he had received a photo of Baby who he thought looked well and he thought Annie ” looked alright.” He said he had received her letter just as they were getting their tea and he had made a “rightly Sunday tea, I payed 8p for 2 eggs and that cake and cream. I enjoyed it very well under the circumstances, it made my best tea since being in France.” He told Annie she needn’t send any more candles as the nights were getting lighter. They could only use them when they were in billets and they had to be in bed by 8 o’clock. He sent the children a post card each, he thought it would please them. He said he would like to see Baby in his short clothes, as he would be ready soon for Bretches .
Annie must have asked him about what sort of billets they were in and he replied that they were all farm houses, partly destroyed by the “Ally men” as that is what the French people called them. They didn’t only get troubled by fleas, but by big rats and mice running all over them at night. Samuel mentioned that he hadn’t had any beer since leaving England and that there was a canteen there but he didn’t want any beer as he said, ” I like to no what I am doing with these shots and shells flying about, a man wants a clear head when he is in the trenches.”
A letter written on a YMCA headed notepaper stated that Samuel was in the best of health and hoping the letter found Annie the same. He told her they were having some beautiful weather there and it was like mid-summer and they were enjoying a week’s rest out of the trenches. They were billeted in a nice village that had been partly ruined by the Germans, so they were able to buy some things to eat for a change and they could get plenty of fresh eggs and butter so they weren’t doing so bad. He said that A. Bunnell had spoken of a letter from home “and they wanted to know what had become of me you don’t want to upset yourself so much when you don’t get my letters so often as we can’t always post one. I send one or a post card when the post is going. I am writing this letter in a French cottage and they have got a little baby about the same as ours, I didn’t half fancy myself while I was nursing for a while. I expect ours is getting a big boy now, he will soon be working, he will have to come cut scraps for me when I get back. I believe they have sent S. Bennett home but I am not sure.” Samuel then asked Annie if she would send him a box of pomade as it had done a lot of good and also a cheap shirt and they were getting plenty of socks from the Queen Mary’s Fund but to tell Papa he could send him a few cigars, as they would be a change from the pipe and cigs.
Another undated letter from Samuel to Annie said that he hoped they were all in good health and that he was pleased with the cigarettes as they were a change from the sort they got. Annie shouldn’t send anymore coffee as it was so warm that it only got wasted. Samuel said ” Tell Howard he has the laugh of me this time for the races, but tell him we have been playing football matches every day and my team hasn’t been beaten yet.” Sometimes they played the officers who had a few good players and he thought that they didn’t think themselves above them. Samuel went on to say that they had been up and down the country and had only been in the trenches 3 days in 6 weeks. He mentioned baby again saying he hoped Annie would save a bit of baby for him and that the family were making him soft. It was something to be proud of when everyone looked to him. He mentioned J. Cartwright who said that he hadn’t seen one like him for his age. Annie told him she wouldn’t know what to do with him when he came home. Samuel replied that he could sleep anywhere and he was thinking of selling his bed and making a dug out in the garden because he wouldn’t know how to sleep in a bed. He hadn’t seen a feather never mind a bed. (Samuel obviously still retained his sense of humour, bless him).
A letter with the heading R.W.F. saying he expected Annie to be thinking how he spent Easter. Well, he’d enjoyed it a treat under the circumstances and that Samuel had met a man in his company who was from Walsall and he knew all of Annie’s family up Staffs and he ????? F. Bough before he died so they had got very palley. Samuel said ” He come to me on Sunday morning and said to me come on lets keep up Mothering Sunday while we have got some money, so we put 5 frank’s each that made 8/4 so we got some eggs and cake and a drop of rum and we had a good day and then we went to wear these Indian Troops are billeted and we had our super with them, you would laugh to see them make their bread it is like light cakes and they wear good no we will eat anything now I eat now what I wouldn’t look at home. I am looking forward to the day when I get home to have you on one arm and Baby on the other, I hope it won’t be long for my ribs are getting quit sore with sleeping on straw I would give a pound now to have a night in my own bed. I expect you are lost now without Mother now but think its a good job she has gone back as I have told you before I never cared a lot for her she didn’t want Ben* only for what she could get off him.”
* Ben would be Benjamin Dutton, please see his notes, these two families are connected.
One letter mentioned an E. Streeford with whom Samuel had sent things for Annie. Samuel asked Annie if she had received the things. He asked for paper and matches as they were very dear and he couldn’t understand the French money. This letter must have been sent after Benjamin Dutton had died as he said that he would get his revenge for Ben. Annie was to tell Mother he would tell her all about the war when he came home.
This letter mentioned the very bad weather, with hard frost and snow, it being so cold they couldn’t sleep. He mentioned his pal S. Bennett, saying he was in hospital with “rumatick fever” and he looked very bad. He went on to say that he was a man that couldn’t stand any sickness. “He gives way to it”. Samuel says that he missed his Sunday dinner but he hoped it wouldn’t be long before they were all home again. He said that they had had the winter now but he would rather have the summer in the Isle of Man.
This letter, again with no date told Annie that he had received a nice parcel from Mother yesterday, but they had sent it in such a very weak box that Samuel only got it in time before everything was lost. ” if I were you I should tell them what kind of box to get next time. Tell Papa me and J. Cartwright are rehearsing the time we shall all have together when we come home we have had a few drinks and a few cigars just the same as we used to do when we was at home he told me to remember him of the times they had together hoping it wont be long again.” “Mother tell me how well the baby looks he must be getting on now I should like to be with him but never mind we shant be away for ever we must have great faith in the Lord for meeting again. We had the paper with Mr. Gladstone’s funeral in it must have been a fine site moving off. Will write again from your loving Husband Sam x x x Baby x x x x “
A sad letter, undated, replying I think to a question Annie must have asked :- ” you were asking me if I were on the stretcher bearers no I am not but I am just the same as when I was at work if there is anyone hurt I with them to do all I can they wear (sic) surprised in the trenches to see me bandage men up you see I haven’t forgot how to do it. I pleased to hear you had Baby’s Photo taken send me one on weather it comes out or not I have put it in the last letter for you to put as many oxo cubes in as you can they will be grand to drink at night in the trenches. I very often think of that record when I am on duty by myself in the night I am looking forward to coming home to have my baby in my arms. I put all my trust in the Lord to bring me safe through this war so that we shall meet very soon. When I am by myself & sit and cry to think how my Mother has served us both but never mind we shall see a day over there yet. I have wrote a letter to Mrs Blackham*. I will drop you a line the day before we go in trenches so I remain for ever your loving Husband Sam x x x x to Baby from Dad X x x x x x send me 2 pair of laces for my boots.”
(* Mrs. BLACKHAM appears at N0 60, Jubilee Street, Shotton on the Family history of Richard Williams, also named on the cenotaph, he was a boarder with her and her family with Richards’ Father Thomas Williams and some of his siblings).
Another letter mentions that Mr. Gladstone from Hawarden had been killed and that “Hawarden would lose a very nice Gentleman and it would be a big blow for them.”
One letter, undated, Samuel refers to Povey* in this sentence “We heard all about Povey it is only right to do what they have done I hope it will never come to my lot it is a bad mark on his family for life but hes not the first one to have that” (George Povey was ‘shot at dawn’ ) Of course Samuel would not know that or any of the facts about George Povey’s case.
* George Povey On 8 February 1915, Field Marshal confirmed the death sentence passed on the NCO and Corporal Povey was executed at St. Jans Cappel in the Ypres Salient at 7.45 a.m. on 11 February 1915. If his executioners bothered to record where they buried Povey’s body, the information did not survive the war and the NCO has no known grave though his name is engraved on the Menin Gate. George Povey has his own page on this website.
Chris Jones had helped to confirm and clarify the War Diaries and said that “Samuel’s last letter home is dated 11th May where he says that on the previous Saturday he couldn’t write because they were suddenly told to move out. This Saturday was the 8th May and when I checked the War Diaries the 22nd Brigade did indeed have to move out on the 8th May.”
Below is an account of the Battle of Festubert written by a French war historian
“Preliminary shelling lasted three days and employed 433 guns of various calibres to fire 100,000 shells on a five kilometre stretch of the front. Despite its intensity the bombardment was relatively ineffective because, in addition to the defective nature of many of the shells, it did not succeed in dislocating the German front. Also, such was the confusion on the battlefield that, at various moments, both sides came under artillery fire from their own camp and this resulted in many deaths.”
According to CWGC Richard Edward Phillips GABBET was Lieutenant Colonel of 1st battalion RWF. Killed 16th May 1915 . Named as a casualty on 22nd brigade War Diaries. (he was Irish and not Welsh)
But buried – Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy. I guess that the bodies of officers received preferential burial treatment!!!
The War Diaries I sent you a copy of are for the 22nd Brigade.
Samuel Welch gives his address on his letters as B Company, 1st RWF , 7th Division.
The Long Long Trail website which lists 1st Btn RWF as part of 7th Division and part of 22nd Brigade. Many thanks Chris.
An excerpt from the 22nd Brigade War Diaries may help explain when Samuel died.:-
May 16 – Festubert.
3.15 am 2.45 am – 3.15 am Artillery bombardment.
Attack launched. 3.25 am 2/Queens reported very heavy rifle and machine gun fire and that they were held up between ours and German Trenches. 2 companies R.W.
4.15 am Fus. Gained 1st German Trenches – Remaining Coys. Moved up in support – After 1/4 hours extra bombardment a Third Company – 2 Queens attacked but failed to get in until reinforced by the 1/South Staffords who took the remainder of the Queens along 4.50 am with them and occupied the German Trenches.
4.5 am The whole of the R. Welch Fus. In the German Trenches afterwards supported by one company 2.Warwicks
5.5 am The 1. South Staffords were in possession of the German Trenches about N.1. Lt. Col. GABBETT commanding R.W.F. – killed. Maj. Bottomly commanding 2/Queens reported mortally wounded.
On the 11th May 1915, 5 days before he was killed, his letter is full of concern about his wife Annie and his son, telling her to buy a tin of “Mellons” food. She must have said that she was down and said that she would be “pulled down” because his son was such a big baby. He was also sorry to hear from Joe Williams about the death of Dan Whitehouse, who had been ill. He talked about his father who he called Papa having backed the winner in the Chester Cup and how the winnings were spent on his Baby. He believed they were all “going soft over him”. He said that he should have been there with them and didn’t think it would be long before they would be together again. He went on to say that they shouldn’t send tins in the parcels as they were too heavy to carry on their backs. A bit of cake and a few cigs or something like that were alright. Samuel also mentioned the terrible thing, sinking the other Liverpool liner and “we would all make them feel sorry for that before we have done with them”. Samuel said the heat there was something awful. It was worse than being in front of the furnace again, “we feel fairly done up after they have marched a few miles.” Samuel mentioned Joe Cartwiright again at the end of the letter, saying he was keeping alright. Samuel finished with “will write again, we are moving off again, from your loving Husband Sam x x x x x x x x x x x Baby x x x x x x x x x x x
I have transcribed a letter sent to Annie Welch after Samuel’s death, the original was photocopied on the 23.2.99 from original held in the Royal Welsh Museum.
Dear Mrs. Welch, Enclosed you will find a locket which I believe belongs to you, it was found & handed to me and I enquired from a man who knew you and he said it was yours. Well Mrs. Welch I don’t know if you have heard the news or not but I am sorry, very sorry to say that your Dear Beloved Husband has been killed in action and of letter – I can hardly express my feelings for you and I may add that he was killed in one of the glorious battles we have had and I know he will be sadly missed by you and all of us who knew him as he was a rare good man God Bless him. He was killed on Sunday May 16th and buried very nicely in a proper grave on the battlefirld along with several others of our Regt. Dear Mrs Welch I am not allowed to write and tell you as much as I have but I am a married man myself with a family and my turn may come any minute and if it does I would like my wife to know as soon as possible as it must be dreadful if you are not receiving any letters and then you get to know such dreadful news.
So I will close sending you my Deepest Sympathy in your sad bereavement – and sending you the Best of Luck.
C.Qms? F. Robinson, B Coy., 1st R.W.Fus.7th Division, British Empire Force?”
Chester Chronicle 20th May 1916 – WELCH – In sad but loving memory of my husband Samuel WELCH (Our Sam), who fell in action at Festubert on May 16th 1915.
Twelve months have passed and I still miss him,
Friends may think the wound has healed;
But they little know the sorrow,
That lies beneath my heart concealed.
(His loving Wife and Baby, Cedar House, Ash Grove, Shotton.)
Gravestone Inscription in St. Deniol’s Churchyard
George Edward Welch died Novr 29th 1898 aged 38 years
Footnote for anyone interested in earlier family history of the Welch/Blease families.
(A glance back at the 1881 census shows us that George Welch (Sam’s father) had a job at Wepre Mill, Wepre, as a Corn Miller. He was 20 and his place of birth was recorded as Tring, Herts. He was living with his sister Ellen Mary Blease, aged 26 who had been born in Pondersend, Middlesex and her husband William Blease. They had one child, Mary Ellen aged 8 months. Also living with them was Alice Welch, a step-daughter, age 6 who had been born in Liverpool.
* http://www.angelfire.com/fl/shotton/history7.html This website shows the Blease family circa 1890.)
Samuel’s younger brother, was also in the war, but who survived:- Edward WELCH’s Flintshire WW1 Index Card (Shotton L270) WELCH, Edward, Cedar House, Ash Grove, Shotton, M.G.C. 59490 Pte. Period of Service 4 years Card signed by Edward WELCH, 21st January, but no year.
His youngest brother George who was born after their father George died was also in the Great War and his Flintshire WW1 Index Card (Shotton L 271) shows that he survived. WELCH, George 56, Nelson Street, Shotton, 87670 R.W.F. Pte., Period of Service 2 and ½ years, George signed the card on the 4th January 1921
Samuel is also remembered on the Hawarden War Memorial and the Memorail Screen to the left of the Altar in the Lady Chapel in St. Ethelwold’s Church, Shotton, and on the St. Ethelwold’s School Roll of Honour.
Baby Welsh grown up – photograph sent to me by Chris Jones