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Bertram Wolfe was born on 18 February 1894 and was the only child of Paul Bertram Wolfe and Elizabeth Simcock; who married in a civil marriage at Stockport between January and March 1891. The Wolfe’s are thought to have been Wesleyans and, at that time, their chapels were not licensed for marriages. The three of them were living at Heath Bank, Brinnington when the national census was taken in 1901. 31 year old Paul worked as a journeyman iron ore moulder.

Bertram was educated at Portwood Wesleyan School and, later, at Stockport Municipal Secondary School. In the years since 1901, Paul Wolfe’s business had been successful and, in 1915, was described as a brass and ironfoundry. Bertarm worked for his father as the company’s clerk.

He enlisted into the army on 24 October 1915, joining the reserve 3/6th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment (original service number 4535). His file shows that he was nearly 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 114 pounds. He had a small frame with only a 32 inch chest (which he could expand a further two inches)

He went into training at Park Hall Camp, Oswestry but was never sent aboard to the front. He was retained as a physical training instructor and also instructed new recruits in how to deal with poison gas, although he had never experienced it in combat (an irony, as will be seen below). On 12 April 1916, he was promoted to Acting Lance Corporal. In early 1917, he was assigned to the Cheshire’s 4th Reserve Battalion, still at Oswestry, and given the service number 266754. Shortly after this, he applied to become an officer and, in September, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the 5th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashires. He finally went to France in January 1918 and was attached to the 7th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment, and, later, to the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers.

In late May or early June, the Battalion was gassed whilst in the trenches at Beaumont Hamel, the scene of hard fighting in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme. Evacuated back to Britain, Bertram was admitted to 3rd Southern General Hospital based in Somerville College at Oxford. An Army Medical Board, on 10 June, recorded “He was gassed and shortly after had pains in abdomen and vomiting. The eyes closed and were (illegible) and he developed a cough and his chest was sore. Coughing blood.” Further notes were made two days later, to the effect that two hours after he had been gassed, he had started vomiting and the eyes had become swollen. The face was “scorched” and this was much worse around the eyes.

There was no effective cure for gas poisoning and as the weeks continued, Bertram became weaker and he contracted pneumonia from which he died.

Bertram WOLFE
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Unit: 5th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 12 July 1918
Age: 24
Cemetery: Stockport Borough Cemetery

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


Paul McCormick
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