full screen background image

100 years ago: Mum ‘without hope’ loses three sons on same day at the Somme

The so-called Great War threw up daily tragedies for local people with family in the Armed Forces but this story from the Salford City Reporter of August 1916 is particularly heartbreaking.

Mrs Stephenson lived at 4 Fern Street in the ‘slum-clearance’ area of Hanky Park in Salford – where Salford Shopping City is now – with her three sons: Edward, Ernest and Harold.

Edward, 36, enlisted in the Lancashire Fusiiliers in April 1915 and saw action at Ypres, St Eloi and Loos where he was wounded.

He rejoined his unit and was soon back in the action but sadly was to fall on the first day of the Battle of the Somme: July 1, 1916.

The news of his death was first received in a letter from Gunner Thomas Ford who wrote to Edward’s wife to assure that her that he would be buried safely.

Ford also described some personal photographs that he found on Edward’s body and said that he would send them back to the family when possible.

At the time of his death Edward was carrying a picture of his wife and one of their six children.

This photograph made it safely back to England via a Private W Heslip.

Further bad news was to come when news of Harold Stephenson arrived in Salford.

A letter arrived stating that Harold had been reported missing, presumed killed in action on 1 July, the exact same day and battle in which his older brother Edward perished.

Harold, 31, enlisted in the 15th Lancashire Fusiliers in November 1914 and was married with six children.

He lived at Tate Street, off Ellor Street, Salford and had been employed at Messrs Pike’s on Ordsall Lane, Salford.

I haven’t been able to find out whether Harold survived the war.

I do hope so – for one family to have to endure that amount of misery is beyond belief and just shows the absolute futilty of war.

The youngest brother, 25-year-old Ernest was well-known in Salford as a keen sportsman and all-round promising athlete. Before enlisting he worked at Seedley Bleach Works.

His war was no better than his brothers’.

News came through that on that same day, 1 July 1916, Ernest had also been reported missing in action.

A letter from his Army Chaplain, Rev TA Lee read: “I am very sorry to tell you that after the recent battle, Ernest was posted as missing.

“I am afraid that this means he has been killed and that his body has not been found.

“At such a time as this mere words do not seem of much use by way of comforting the bereaved, still I would remind you that he and his regiment did splendidly undervery difficult cirmcumstances and I hope that your pride in him will help you to bear his loss bravely, please accept my heartfelt sympathy”

The Salford City Reporter told that Mrs Stephenson still had not given up hope that her boys may have been captured as prisoners of war, and she continued to wait for them to turn up on her doorstep back in Salford.

Facebook Comments

SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.