More Local Casualties

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Mr. and Mrs. J. Thompson, Stainburn, have received word that their son Alfred, 20 years of age, has gone down. Deceased was a fine young fellow employed at William Pit before the war, and a favourite with all who knew him.

Lt-Col. Machell, in the course of a sympathetic letter to Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, says:
The Battalion has been specially complimented by the General Commanding the Army for its conduct on this occasion, and I hope it may be of some small consolation to you in your sorrow to know how proud we all are of your son. I was present with other officers at his funeral, which took place the following evening.

Private Robert McKegg says in a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Thompson:
No doubt it will console you to know that he suffered no pain. He was doing a good turn in helping to carry a wounded Corporal down the trench when he was hit. We all miss him very much, as he had a cheery word for everyone he met. As for me, I miss him as I would miss a brother.

The Chaplain, Rev. A.J.W. Crosse, writes:
Your son has proved himself one of our heroes. We are all proud of him, and we all sympathise most deeply with you in having lost such a noble lad. We paid all the honour we could to your boy and his comrades when we laid them to rest in a pretty cemetery not far from the trenches. Their last resting places will be marked by crosses bearing their names, and you may be sure we shall most reverently and affectionately look after their graves. God will help you all to be as brave as your boy was. It is an honour to have given such a son to your country.

Lance-Corporal W. Bacon, also of Stainburn, says:
I was with him at the time of his fatal wound, and I can assure you he suffered no pain, death coming soon after. He was doing a noble work. When he was hit, he was attending to a wounded comrade who also died. I can assure you that every man of D. Company sends his deepest sympathy for you in your sad bereavement, and I trust God will help you to bear up in this time of sadness and trial, and will comfort you. Our Sergt. (Stephen) was lost, and I had to take command of the party. Alf was lying next to me, and was first man to enter the German lines with me. He laughed and talked about us two Stainburn lads leading the way. Everyone of our party, except the Sergeant, got back to our trenches when “the retire” came, and then just at the finish of our attack, Alf was hit. I can tell you this has broken my heart. A better than Alf I never had. I saw him laid to rest alongside his other comrades. If there is anything else you would like to know I will do my best for you. Accept my deepest sympathy. May God bless and comfort you.

Word has been received that Sergeant William Walter Stephen, son of ex-Police Inspector Stephen, 27 years of age, who married Miss Lily Mann, daughter of the late Mr. George Mann, builder, is missing. Deceased, who was very well known, was a collector in the Corporation Gas Department before joining the Colours.

Major Machell writes to Mrs. W.W. Stephen, under date, June 8th, as follows:
Dear Madam, I write to assure you of my deepest sympathy and my personal regret at the loss of your husband, Sergt. W. Stephen, who was wounded and subsequently missing on the occasion of a night attack upon the German trenches on the night of the 4th-5th inst. Notwithstanding the efforts made by patrols, all efforts to find him have been unsuccessful. It is known that he was badly wounded as the party was going across, and it is possible that he may have been taken prisoner. Your husband is the greatest possible loss to the Battalion and his Company, in which he was a tower of strength. I greatly hope that his life may have been spared, and I cannot tell you how deeply I sympathise with you. I hope to collect full particulars from those who were with him, and to send you all possible information in due course, but I felt I must write as soon as possible to tell you how deeply we feel the loss we have sustained. – Yours very truly, P.W. Machell, Lieut.-Colonel, commanding.

Captain Corbett writes:
Dear Mrs. Stephen, - I have very bad news for you of your husband. He is officially reported as wounded and missing, but I greatly fear that the chance of his being alive is a very small one indeed. He was one of a party of raiders who made a very daring and successful raid on the German trenches, capturing 17 prisoners and killing others. Sergt. Stephen was thoroughly reliable and most efficient, and he proved of the utmost value in all the preparations for the raid and in the raid itself. I am afraid your personal loss is the heaviest of all, as the uncertainty is so terribly trying, but you have the satisfaction of knowing your husband did a deed of the utmost gallantry, for which – had he been with us now – he would be certainly recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. May, I, on behalf of my brother officers, myself and the whole of D. Company, offer you our sincerest sympathy.

Sergeant Evan Davies, referring to the sad event in a letter to his mother, on June 9th says:
I suppose you will have heard the sad news about poor Willie Stephen. He is reported as wounded and missing. It is just possible he may be a prisoner in Germany. He acted with magnificent courage. He was wounded in the shoulder going over to the German trenches. After telling Lance-Corporal Bacon, of Stainburn, to take charge of his party, he changed his mind, and went on into the German trenches, helping to take 16 prisoners. He left the trench with the rest of the party, and wasn’t seen again. What happened to him one can only guess. It is probable that he fainted from loss of blood. There were large parties searching for him the following night without success. Everybody is deeply grieved about it, but full of admiration for his splendid bravery. What a terrible shock it will be for Lily, poor girl.
I was up with the party in charge of camp and the bombs before they left for the trench about half-a-mile away. Willie handed me a little bundle, containing all his papers, and asked me to send them home if anything happened to him. Afterwards, he asked me for it back, and took Lily’s photograph out to take with him, as he said, for luck.
Workington Star and Harrington Guardian, Published 16 June 1916.
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