13174 L/SGT. R. CHEETHAM. SCOTS GDS.
Ralph Cheetham was born in the second quarter of 1894 in Cuerden. His father was James Cheetham (b. 1866 in Clayton Le Woods), a general labourer. His mother was Ellen Eastham (b. 1863 in Longton). James and Ellen were married in 1882 – he was 16 and she was 19 and already pregnant with their first child. The couple had 11 children, 8 of whom survived infancy. The survivors were: William (b. 1882), Samuel (b. 1886), Frederick (b. 1888), Mary Ellen (1891-2), then Ralph, then Jane Alice (b. 1896), Maggie (b. 1899) and finally Kellie (b. 1902). In 1911, Ralph was living with his parents and 4 siblings at 22 Dewhurst’s Row, Bamber Bridge. Ralph was a cotton weaver.
Ralph probably enlisted in 1915. He joined the Scots Guards (a popular regiment with men from Lostock Hall, though less so with Briggers). He was assigned service number 13174 and posted to 2nd Battalion. From August 1915, 2Bn came under orders of 3rd Guards Brigade in Guards Division.
In 1915, the Guards Division fought at Loos. In 1916, on the Somme, they fought at Flers-Courcelette and Morval. In 1917, after the pursuit to the Hindenburg Line, they fought in the opening battle of the Third Battle of Ypres, at Pilkem, and then again at Menin Road, Poelcapelle and the First Battle of Passchendaele. They also fought at Cambrai. In the army restructuring in February 1918, the brigades had to reduce the number of battalions from four to three. They fought through Operation Michael and then engaged in training and rest, in preparation for the final push. In July they had been in the line at Sombrin and then withdrew to billets at Berles-au-Bois. Later in the month 100 American soldiers joined the Battalion. The War Diary seems especially casual about reporting casualties – spending more time reporting a bagpipe competition which they lost… However, the diarist does record that “There were a few casualties in the Battalion during the tour, some of them from gas. The enemy gassed most of the Battalion area one night”. And later he reports casualties for the month as 5 killed, none missing, 31 wounded. “No casualties among officers. Three Sergeants … were gassed”. So we can assume Lance Sergeant Cheetham was one of those gassed. He was 24 years old.
Rank: Lance Serjeant
Service Number: 13174
Date of Death: 12/07/1918
Regiment/Service: Scots Guards, 2nd Bn.
Cemetery/memorial reference: III. C. 6.
Cemetery: BERLES NEW MILITARY CEMETERY
Additonal Information: Son of James William and Ellen Cheetham, of 22 Dewhursts Row, Bamber Bridge, Preston, Lancs.