Private Sam Padgett, 15499, Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment), 2nd Battalion
Sam Padgett was born in Alverthorpe in the summer 1895, the seventh child of Sam Padgett and his wife, Priscilla (nee Pugh), who married in 1881. The couple had 15 children from their marriage, but sadly five children had died before April 1911. All of the children were born in Alverthorpe.
In 1901 the family were living in Alverthorpe, but by 1911, mill hand Sam Padgett senior, wife Priscilla and seven of their ten surviving children, including Sam junior, had moved to Pildacre Hill, Ossett. Sam Padgett junior, then aged 15, was a delver at the local pit. Sometime later the family moved to live at nearby Turn O’the Nook, Wesley Street, Ossett.
Sam Padgett’s army service record has not survived, but it is known that he enlisted at Huddersfield and joined the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment) with service no. 3/15499. He embarked for the Balkans on the 7th August 1915 and later moved to the Western Front.
Private Sam Padgett was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals and also the 1914/15 Star in recognition of his service overseas before 31st March 1915. He was also awarded the Military Medal and the Croix de Guerre (Belgium) for gallantry.
Sam Padgett was serving with the 2nd Battalion, West Riding Regiment at the time of his death in March 1918. However, it is known that he served in Gallipoli, Egypt and then France. It is likely therefore that he served first with the 8th Battalion before transferring to the 2nd Battalion after the 8th Battalion was disbanded on the 13th February 1918.
The 8th Battalion was raised at Halifax in August 1914 as part of Kitchener's First New Army and joined 34th Brigade in 11th (Northern) Division. Moved to Belton Park (Grantham) On the 18th of January 1915 they transferred to 32nd Brigade still in 11th (Northern) Division. They moved to Witley in April 1915 for final training and in July sailed from Liverpool for Gallipoli, via Mudros. They landed near Lala Baba at Suvla Bay on the 6th and 7th of August. On the 19th and 20th of December 1915 the Division was withdrawn from Gallipoli, moving to Imbros then to Egypt at the end of January. They concentrated at Sidi Bishr and took over a section of the Suez canal defences on the 19th of February.
On the 17th of June 1916 the Division was ordered to France to reinforce Third Army on The Somme. They departed from Alexandria on with the last units leaving on the 3rd of July. By the 27th July, they were in the front line on the Somme and took part in the capture of the Wundt-Werk, The Battle of Flers-Courcelette and The Battle of Thiepval.
In 1917 they were in action in Operations on the Ancre, then moved north to Flanders for The Battle of Messines, The Battle of the Langemarck, The Battle of Polygon Wood, The Battle of Broodseinde and The Battle of Poelcapelle. On the 13th of February 1918 the battalion was disbanded in France at the re-organisation of the Army.
The "Ossett Observer" 1 had this report of the award of Private Sam Padgett's Military Medal:
"An Ossett Military Medallist - We are informed by the sister of Private Sam Padgett, of the West Riding Regiment, an Ossett man, whose home is at Pildacre, that he has been decorated with the Military Medal for bravery. According to a letter received from him, he earned the distinction by bravery in acting as a despatch runner during heavy enemy bombardment in the last week of September 1916. 'Shells were flying around us like hailstones,' he says, but he escaped without a scratch. Private Padgett is 21 years of age. Before enlisting he worked as a rope lad at Shaw Cross Colliery. He was in the Dardanelles and then in Egypt, before being sent to France."
Sam Padgett was killed on the 23rd March 1918 during the first two days of the German Spring Offensive, Operation Michael, as part of the 10th Brigade of the 4th Division. This was just prior to the the First Battle of Arras, which began on the 28th March 1918, in which the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment) fought.
The "Ossett Observer" 2 had this obituary for Private Sam Padgett:
"Ossett Military Medallist Killed - The sad news has been received this week of the death in action on the 23rd ult. of Private Sam Padgett (22), of the West Riding Regiment, whose parents reside at Turn o't' Nook, Wesley-street, Ossett. The deceased, who was well-known in the borough, enlisted in the army shortly after the outbreak of war and has taken part in the fighting in Egypt, in the Dardanelles, and in France. Some time ago, he was awarded the Military Medal and the French honour of the Croix-de-Guerre for gallant conduct on the battlefield. Before joining the forces he worked at the Shaw Cross Colliery. For many years his father has been employed in the goods department at Ossett G.N. station."
In August 1918, there was a public presentation in Ossett Market Place when Ossett's Mayor, Alderman G.F. Wilson awarded Private Sam Padgett's Military Medal and the Belgian Croix-de-Guerre to his parents: 3
"Honour To The Brave Dead - Ossett Mother Receives Medals Of Her Soldier Son - Public Presentation In The Market Place - Killed in action shortly after winning the Military Medal and the Belgian Croix-de-Guerre, Private Sam Padgett's fine spirit of patriotism and gallantry was publicly recognised on Monday evening, when in the presence of a large crowd assembled in the Ossett Market Place, the Mayor (Alderman G.F. Wilson) presented these honours to the soldier's mother, Mrs. Padgett, of Wesley-street, who was accompanied by her husband. The presentation was made from an improvised platform in front of the town hall, in front of which a contingent of the Volunteers was drawn up, and that the public recognised that tribute should be paid to Ossett's fighting men was shown by the large attendance.
Alderman Robinson, who presided, said that they were there to do honour to one who was worthy of it, and to do it in no formal manner, but with honest and sincere feelings. Private Padgett was a young man, trusted, beloved and respected by his comrades and superiors, and his townsmen were not one whit behind in their appreciation of what he had done. With his parents they felt the deepest sympathy, they had paid a great price, and they hoped they would be comforted by the thought that their son had served his country so well and laid down his life in the interests of his fellow-men. It had always seemed to him that a lad capable of such courage and sacrifice had in him all the possibilities of a worthy citizen, which, given a fair chance, would have emerged in great and good service to the community. By his loss, the borough was distinctly the poorer. 'We owe these men more than we are realising' said the alderman. 'But for them the safety and freedom, the justice and pleasure of life we have been accustomed to, would altogether pass beyond our reach, and would be replaced by tyranny and oppression and despotism of which we have been given a sample in the helpless countries that have come under the German yoke'. Our soldiers, he said, are paying the price for their country's safety and future destiny.
The mayor expressed the regret which everybody felt that Private Padgett had not lived to receive the military honours he had so worthily won. This brave lad was 22 years of age, and though not Ossett born, had resided in Ossett for 15 years, and was well-known and highly respected. He enlisted shortly after the outbreak of the war, and had taken part in the fighting in Egypt, the Dardanelles, and in France. The West Riding Regiment (Duke of Wellington's), to which he was attached, must have felt proud of him when he won the Military Medal and Croix-de-Guerre. Ossett people were proud of him also. Second-Lieutenant Morris, in charge of his company, wrote to Mrs. Padgett, 'Your son was always a great favourite with all the officers of the battalions. He was always brave and ever ready to volunteer', and Captain Shaw wrote, 'He was without doubt the bravest and most cheerful little fellow that one could meet. No matter what the hardships were, no matter how hard the shelling was, he was always ready to do anything he was asked. He was always in the thick of every fight. He was loved by everybody.'
Pinning, amidst applause, the honours on the breast of Mrs. Padgett, the Mayor expressed his sympathy and congratulations, adding 'Your son gave his life for his friends, what more could he do?' On behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Padgett, Alderman Robinson expressed their 'feelings of gratitude'.
Councillor J.T. Marsden, in a short address, pointed out that this was one of the lads who volunteered early in the war. He saw the need for his services and jumped into the fray, to uphold the honour of the country. 'We are all proud of him and sorry he is not here.' Remarking that 66 lads from South Ossett alone had fallen in the fight, Councillor Marsden said that there was a lesson to learn. Were they at home uncomplainingly doing their duty to help those lads in the fray, and to help to win freedom for our country and for all the countries in the world? We had passed through dark days. Now the outlook was more cheerful, but he foresaw a hard time this coming winter, particularly in regard to fuel. It was for them to uncomplainingly make the best of the situation, and so help the soldiers win the war, at, they hoped, a not very distant day. But however long it was, they must help to bring about a final and complete success.
The Rev. R.E. Burlingham spoke of the courage shown by Mrs. Padgett in facing the ordeal of that public ceremony, and said it was quite right that they should do honour to the lad's memory in that public way. The parents of Private Padgett should always look back to that occasion with special pride and feel that the townspeople that they honoured their son. Pointing out that one of the distinctions awarded was the Croix-de-Guerre or Cross of War, that the highest distinction a soldier could win in this country was the Victoria Cross and in Germany, the Iron Cross, the vicar said that all this stood for one thing - the Cross, which meant sacrifice. That reminded them that they had to show the same courage and sacrifice that had been shown by the soldier who won the distinctions. They had to ask themselves, 'Is the sacrifice this lad made worthwhile? Are we worth dying for?' Were they going to show the same sacrifice, whether it was in making possible a successful end to the war, or in showing, not physical courage, but the moral courage that would be needed to make this country really worth dying for. That was the question they had to face. If it was anything less then a war to end wars, the sacrifice this lad had shown was absolutely wasted. 'So you and I have to have the moral courage to go forward, giving our very best in every way, so that we may earn the Cross, not of war, but of peace. Please God, we will show in future the courage and self-sacrifice so that we may turn this terrible war into glorious peace."
Above: Map of the German advance during the Spring Offensive, Operation Michael, which started on the 21st March 1918.
Private Sam Padgett, M.M. and Croix de Guerre (Belgium), aged 22 years, son of Sam Padgett, of 75, Wesley Street, Ossett, died on the 23rd March 1918. He is buried at grave reference IV. C. 29. at the Brown's Copse Cemetery, Roeux, 4 Pas de Calais, France. Roeux is a village about 8 kilometres east of Arras. Brown's Copse Cemetery is about one kilometre north-west of Roeux on the eastern outskirts of the neighbouring village of Fampoux. It is signposted from Fampoux village.
Roeux was built over a system of caves which helped to make its capture in 1917 exceptionally difficult. It was attacked by the 9th (Scottish) Division without success on 12 April. The chemical works close to the railway station were taken by the 51st (Highland) Division on 22 April and after incessant fighting, the village was cleared by the same Division on 14 May. The chemical works were lost again and retaken on 16 May. The Germans re-entered the village at the end of March 1918, and it was finally retaken by the 51st Division on the following 26 August.
The cemetery is named from a small copse (the Bois Rossignol) on the east side. Plots I to IV are composed almost entirely of graves cleared from the battlefield in the summer of 1917. Plots V to VIII were made after the Armistice when 850 graves were brought in from a wide area north and east of Arras.
The following were the only considerable burial grounds from which British graves were taken to Brown's Copse Cemetery:
Seaforth Cemetery, Roeux, North-East side of the road from the village to the station, where 18 soldiers from the United Kingdom were buried in April, 1917, and 21 of the 6th Seaforths in August and September, 1918.
Vitry-en-Artois Communal Cemetery and German Extension, in which 17 soldiers from the United Kingdom (mainly officers of the Royal Flying Corps) were buried by the enemy. The cemetery now contains 2,069 burials and commemorations of the First World War. 859 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to eight casualties known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials commemorate two casualties buried in Vitry-en-Artois Communal Cemetery German Extension, whose graves could not be found.
1. "Ossett Observer", 2nd December 1916
2. "Ossett Observer", 6th April 1918
3. "Ossett Observer", 17th August 1918