SAM WADE CATLOW
Date of Death:30/09/1918
Regiment:South Wales Borderers
Cemetery:Brie British Cemetery
Grave Reference:III. C. 4.
Sam's name on the memorial at St.Anne's Church. Courtesy of Mike Berrell
Sam Wade Catlow was born in Royton in 1898. His parents were Thomas,a slaughterman, and Annie and were originally from Skipton and Manchester respectively. Sam was the youngest of 10 children. His older siblings were John,Thomas,James,Agnes,Eliza,Herbert,Albert,Nellie and Florence. He was single and worked as a minder at the Bee Mill.He was also a member of the congregation of St.Anne's,being brought up nearby at 275 Oldham Road and later living at number 345.
Sam applied to be exempted from military conscription, two of his brothers were already serving and his father was ill, but before his hearing before the tribunal that sat at Royton Town Hall he received his call up papers and joined the army in early 1917. The Oldham Chronicle of March 24th 1917 reported on that week's proceedings at the Royton Tribunal stated that two of his sisters attended and informed the board that he had already gone.A discussion followed and the tribunal came to the conclusion that nothing further could be done.
When Sam was sent out for active service, around about late Autumn 1917, it was to the SWB's 1st Battalion. This unit had already been out at the front for over 3 years by that point in time. The battalion was engaged in the closing stages of the Battle of Paschendaele and had a failed attack through the heavy mud on 10th November 1917 in which well over two thirds of the men in action became casualties.
It's likely that Sam joined as a part of a reinforcement draft after that. His first, and only, winter on the front line was spent in the mud of the Ypres Salient. After his arrival the battalion had over three weeks out of the line before returning to the Ypres Salient. From December 5th to 12th the battalion was in reserve or support and then in the front line south of Houthulst Forest until December 16th. This was a shocking piece of the line - no trenches, merely shell holes and the men were extremely uncomfortable. Fortunately it was a quiet spell and the four days in the front line brought only four casualties. Spells in support and reserve followed and then the battalion spent some time working for a tunnelling company of the Royal Engineers. The end of 1917 found it again in support near Woesten.
January to March 1918 followed a similar pattern with short spells on the front line interspersed with training,periods in reserve and support along with providing working parties for other units. Then in April 1918 the1st SWB moved down to the Givenchy area and were to be plunged into battle once more. It was there that they distinguished themselves with a stubborn defence of Loisne Chateau on April 18th. At 04:00 that day an intense German bombardment begain including many gas shells. This lasted until 08:30 and then, under cover of a heavy mist, the Germans attacked in force. A small strongpoint ahead of the main front line known as Route A Keep consisting of a concrete pillbox with trenches arranged in a square around it (this has been the scene of heavy fighting between Germans and the Liverpool Scottish battalion, many of whose dead still lay all around it), garrisoned by 2 platoons of D Company, was overwhelmed and then the Germans advanced onto the main positions. The attackers came under withering fire from the 1st SWB and their attack was broken. By 11:00 the situation had quietened down. Some groups of German survivors sheltered in shell holes in the new stretch of No Man's Land with most of these being picked up by patrols as prisoners. On April 20th the remainding men of B Company along with 2 platoons or C Company attacked and retook the keep. On the 21st/22nd the battalion was relieved.
There followed a relatively quiet summer of 1918 for the battalion until they were again in major action in September.
They were part of the British Army's advance against what was by now a weakening opponent. On September 15th they were involved in sharp fighting at Maissemy in which casualties amounted to about 100 men. After holding it's gains until the evening of the 16th, the battalion was relieved and went into reserve.
They were back in action on September 24th with C & D Companies involved in the capture of Fresnoy le Petit and Gricourt and then the battalion was involved in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line at Bellenglise on September 27th. The advance continued and Sam was to be fatally injured and died of his wounds at the 48th Casualty Clearing station on September 30th 1918. His unit had been involved in action on that day and also the 29th. The unit war diary states:
On the morning of the 29th the Battalion, in conjunction with troops on our Right and Left, attacked a frontage of 500 yards. The Left was a point about 500 yards East of Pontruet The dispositions beforethe attack were A Coy right front, B Coy left front, D Coy support and C Coy in reserve. At Zero B Coy advanced about 850 yards and took Aucille Trench (first objective). A certain amount of opposition was met with from MGs but this was overcome. The plan of attack was to wait for the 1st Gloucesters before going on to the second objective, but OC D Coy, seeing the Gloucesters held up by MG fire, pushed his attack forward to second objective, Foreats Trench, making excellent use of the cover which the ground afforded. When D Coy was established in Foreats Trench, C Coy came up behind the trench and formed up ready to start for Third Objective, which was the village of Thorigny and Talana Hill. At Zero (6pm) C Coy advanced under cover of a barrage. Meeting with very heavy machine gun fire and darkness coming on C Coy did not advance further than about 500 yards in front of Foreats. Here they dug in and waited till morning. D Coy and A Coy were supporting C Coy.
At Zero (8am) C Coy advanced to the Third Objective. A Coy from the front engaged the machine gun nest which held up the advance the previous night, while C Coy and D Coy, working round the north of the slope, came round behind the post,
which was captured with its guns. After this there was not much opposition and C Coy advanced through Thorigny to Talana Hill, where they consolidated. D Coy garrisoned Thorigny and A Coy formed a defensive flank facing south and joining up with 1st Gloucesters.During these operations our casualties were 3 Officers killed (2nd Lt HF Martin, 2nd Lt LR Parker and 2nd Lt R King) and 4 other ranks killed and 31 wounded. The Battalion captured 3 field guns, 36 machine guns, 4 Trench Mortars and 2 anti-tank guns.
The other men to be killed in action and die of their wounds on those two days (including another local man, Alfred Millward
from Oldham) were:
AGER FRED Private 36178 enlisted Bethnal Green
DODD GEORGE Private 38658 from Shropshire
EYRES JAMES Private 48055 born Stockport,enlisted Chester
GOULDING THOMAS Lance Corporal 23416 born Wiltshire,enlisted Newport
KING ROBERT Second Lieutenant
LAWMAN GEORGE Private 46843 born Carlisle,enlisted Workington
MARTIN HARRY 19 Second Lieutenant from Cardiff
MILWARD ALFRED 33 Private 23848 from Oldham
PARKER LESLIE 20 Second Lieutenant from Cardiff
WORTHINGTON CHARLES 19 Private 46487 from Chorley