Private 52287 Samuel Colwell

Killed in Action on Monday, 15th April 1918, age 19.
Commemorated on Panel 5 of Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium.

2nd Bn., Worcestershire Regiment. 100th Brigade of 33rd Division.
Formerly 1st Bn., Worcestershire Regiment.

Son of A. T. Colwell, of 130, Salop St., Dudley, Worcs, and the late Matilda Colwell.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Dudley, Resident: Dudley.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1641883/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Samuel Colwell registered March quarter 1899 in Dudley.

1901 Census
65 Park Lane West, Tipton, Staffs.
Alfred T. Colwell (30, Blacksmith's Striker, born Tipton), his wife Matilda (28, born Tipton), and their 5 children: Alfred (8, born Tipton), Elizabeth (7, born Tipton), William (4, born Tipton), Samuel (2, born Tipton), and Ellen (10, born Tipton).

1911 Census
2a Peel Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Alfred Thomas Colwell (41, Fireman, born Bilston), his wife Matilda (39, born Tipton), and their 7 surviving children of 9: Alfred (18, Errand Boy, born Tipton), Elizabeth (17, born Tipton), William (13, School, born Tipton), Samuel (12, School, born Tipton), Ellen (10, School, born Tipton), Frank (8, born Lichfield), and James (4, born Lichfield).

Personal Data

After Samuel's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £2/2/1d (2 pounds, 2 shillings and 1 penny); this was paid to his father, Alfred T., in December 1919. His War Gratuity was £6/10/0d (6 pounds and 10 shillings), this was also paid to his father in December 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Samuel had enlisted in approximately October 1916.

Action resulting in his death

The German Spring Offensive began on the 21st March 1918, the focus was initially in the area of the 1916 Somme battlefield. During the next 2 weeks, the Allied line was forced to fall back significantly, but had not broken. On 12th April, the German focus switched towards Flanders and they attacked from Messines Ridge towards Neuve Eglise held by the 2nd Worcesters. The defence and ultimate withdrawal from Neuve Eglise brought great credit to the 2nd Worcesters, with Captain J.J. Crowe winning the Victoria Cross for his brave leadership in the withdrawal.

On 13th April, from the 2nd Worcesters defence line to the east of Neuve Eglise, they could see the Germans advancing from Messines Ridge to the east. Despite desperate defence by the 2nd Worcesters, the Germans could be slowed but not halted. Battalion HQ was at the 'Mairie' (Town Hall) in Neuve Eglise, by 6pm 2 platoons of 'B' Company joined the HQ staff, and the Mairie was organised for defence. This allowed others to withdraw further to the west.

The enemy kept up heavy fire overnight, and were almost surrounding the Mairie at dawn on 14th April. Rather than surrender, at 11.00am Captain Crowe led a small group of 2nd Worcesters in a break-out to the west. His small group out-flanked a machine-gun crew on a hill overlooking the Mairie, and disposed of them. Those men in the Mairie still capable of escape followed this route, and made their way back towards 'Hill 70' near Dranoutre. For this action, Captain Crowe was awarded the Victoria Cross.

However on the 15th April, the Germans captured Bailleul and were threatening to overwhelm the 49th Division. The 2nd Worcesters were called to cover their retreat, after which the 2nd Worcesters were again on the front line. Enemy fire was heavy and the 2nd Worcesters again took casualties, and it was 18th April before the exhausted remnants of the 2nd Worcesters were withdrawn into reserve.

58 men of the 2nd Worcesters lost their lives between the 12th and 16th April, Tipton man Samuel Colwell is recorded as being killed in action on the 15th April. Like many of his comrades killed in this period, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

Newspaper Cuttings