Three generations of a High Peak family visited France to pay their respects to a relative who was killed by German machine gunfire shortly before the end of the First World War.
Exactly 100 years since the day of his death on October 24, 1918, they laid a wreath at the grave of Ralph Bagshaw, of Whaley Bridge, in a military graveyard at Pommereuil, in a small village in Northern France.
Ralph, 34, was a sergeant with the 11th battalion Notts and Derby Regiment of the Sherwood Foresters.
Heading the group was ex-Advertiser journalist Clive Beddall, 76, formerly of Whaley Bridge and Ralph Bagshaw‘s great nephew. Alongside him was his son, Martin, 50, a former photographer with the Times, while the third generation consisted of Martin’s son Adam, 14, and his sister Daisy, 17.
Ralph, a labourer, enlisted in September 1914 after being in the Territorials. He came to the Western front in August 1915 and served at Ypres and at the Battle of the Somme.
He lived at Rosy Bank, in Buxton Road, Whaley Bridge, with his wife Florence. He died after being congratulated for gallantry at Passchendaele by his Corps commander according to the book The Men from the Greenwood that recalled the history of his Battalion,
Clive said: “Sadly despite all Martin’s research into Ralph’s distinguished military career we have no photograph of him. But we hope that someone in Whaley Bridge may recall him and perhaps even, after reading the Advertiser, have a photograph.”
On the first day of the battle of the Somme Ralph’s battalion went from 27 officers and 710 men, to just six officers and 202 men still standing by the evening. The rest were cut down by machine gunfire.
Ralph was killed as his unit pushed towards the area’s Sambre canal. During an early morning attack, across open fields, a supporting tank broke down so the infantry were on their own.
Ralph and many of his unit were caught up crossing uncut barbed wire while sniper fire added to the machine gun barrage as they attacked a small village.
The war had just days to go. Another casualty was Wilfred Owen, the wartime poet who was killed nearby just one week later.