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Other than his enlistment in Stockport and his commemoration on the War Memorial, Percival’s connection with the town is unknown.

He was born in Wheelock, Cheshire, the son of Frederick and Mary. In 1901 (when a national census was taken), he was living in Sandbach and was working as a railway clerk. His service number is not a particularly early one, suggesting he enlisted in approximately late 1915. At the time he was living in Northwich.

The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July and had ground on, with mounting casualties, throughout the summer. After the failures of the first day (except in the south of the battlefield), a series of smaller scale attacks had advanced the British line a little way.

On 25 September, the 1st Loyals moved back into the front line, ready for an attack the next night. The British 1st Division (including the Loyals) and 50th Division would attack a new German trench, known as Flers Switch, at 11pm on the 26th.

At zero hour, the Battalion “went over the top”. Their objective was the section of the new trench lying between Flers Line and The Cresecent. “C” and “D” Companies led the way, in two lines of two platoons each. 50 yards separated each line. 50 yards behind them followed “B” Company. “A” Company remained behind to hold the British trench in case of counter attack.

They came under heavy machine gun fire and, in the extreme dark, they lost their direction and the attack failed. Percival was one of 57 from his Battalion to be killed. It will not have been possible to recover his body from No Man’s Land. Bodies would lie in the open for weeks until it was safe enough to bury them, by which time it was often impossible to identify them. Percival is now commemorated on the nearby Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, along with over 72000 other names of soldiers who have no known grave after the fighting between July and November.

Rank: Private
Number: 26839
Date of Death: 26 September 1916
Age: 31
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

This article has been reproduced with kind permission from the Stockport 1914-18 website.

Paul McCormick
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