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100 years ago: A Salford soldier’s death foretold

Our final look at stories from the pages of the Salford City Reporter of August 1916 tells of the sad fate of Herbert Fletcher, 33, a soldier serving in the 7th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

Before joining the army in two years before with many other local men, swept away on wave of patriotism, Herbert worked at James Royle’s as a slater’s labourer.

Herbert lived at 17 Rossall Street, one of the most densely populated streets in the Hanky Park area of Salford.

As so often the case, Mrs Fletcher would receive the letter that every serviceman’s family dreaded which informed them of their loved one’s death.

This letter was from his commanding officer Captain W. H. Maule, who wrote: “I much regret that I have not an opportunity to write to you before this to tell you how much I sympathise with you in the death of your husband, who was killed whilst doing his duty in the trenches.

“He was always most conscientious in doing his work, as I know well for I had plenty of opportunity of seeing, as he was assistant to the Company Quarter-Master Sergeant, again sympathising with you in your great sorrow.”

A further letter arrived shortly after from Company Quarter-Master Sergeant Charles Smith which read: “Dear Mrs Fletcher, I very much regret to inform you that your husband was killed in action on Wednesday, July 5.

“It may be some relief to you to know that he suffered no pain, and I shall feel his death very much for the last nine months he had been my storeman, and a good worker he was who will be greatly missed by his comrades in his company.

“I have just been informed that his brother Walter was also wounded on Saturday, once again please accept my deepest sympathy.”

This all too common story holds significant poignancy for several reasons.

Herbert had been at home on compassionate leave in March to attend the funeral of his baby son.

Furthermore his wife, who was left with five children, had already been told by a returning comrade of Herbert’s that he had seen him fall in action.

The poor woman’s suffering must have been intolerable.

To have lost a baby son and a husband in the space of a few months is unthinkable, and God only knows what hardships she must have suffered bringing the surviving children up in Hanky Park.

Military records do not seem to record what happened to Walter Fletcher, so hopefully he survived and escaped the fate of his brother Herbert.

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