7700 PTE. S. PIPER. R.A.M.C.
Sam Piper was born on 28 August 1895, in Bamber Bridge and baptised at St Saviour’s on 10 November. His family led a slightly itinerant life. His father, John Piper, was born in 1861 at Winslade, near Basingstoke in Hampshire. He was an agricultural labourer, but by 1890 he had moved to Garstang where he met and married Hannah (Annie) Sharples (b. 1869 in Garstang). The following year, John was working as a dock labourer and the couple were living in Preston. They subsequently had 4 children, but I have found only three names in the Censuses: William John Paul (b. 1891), Richard (b. 1893), then Sam. The family lived only briefly in Bamber Bridge and by 1911, Sam was living with his father at Calder Vale, back near Annie’s birthplace. John was a water works contractor’s labourer and Sam was a weaver. The pair were lodging with a Richard Butler, who worked with John. I haven’t managed to find either Annie, or the other two boys or their fourth child in the Censuses.
Sam enlisted with the Royal Army Medical Corps at the outbreak of War and landed in France with 3rd Army Field Ambulance on 19 August 1914, just a few days before his 19th birthday. A Field Ambulance was basically a small scale hospital, with 10 officers and 224 men when at full strength. Duties included stretcher bearing and the Field Ambulances were located close to the front line so could be very dangerous places. RAMC men were not armed.
3FA was initially attached to 1st Division, but in August 1915 it was transferred to the Guards Division and supported the Guards on the Somme in 1916 at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September) and the Battle of Morval (25-28 September). We know exactly what happened to Sam, thanks to an extract from 3FA War Diary. His unit was based at Bronfay. Sam and two other bearers were killed, and five others wounded, by a single shell as they went up to the Regimental Aid Posts near Les Boeufs.
Sam’s body was not recovered. He was just a month past his 21st birthday. Sam’s effects were returned to his father and they were more substantial than many of his peers: cash to the value of £17 13s 4d, and also a War Gratuity of £12.
Sam lived in Bamber Bridge only briefly, as a child. His family also seem to have moved about quite a bit and mother and father, along with the children, seem to have lived separately. For these reasons, Sam’s sacrifice is not recorded on the War Memorials in either Bamber Bridge or Garstang. But he is commemorated on the new South Ribble Memorial near Lostock Hall.
Between 20-26 September 1916, the Guards Division had 672 officers and men killed (Coldstream 78, Genadiers 357, Irish 62, Scots 150 and Welsh 125). Overall, on the same dates, the RAMC had 45 men killed.
Service No: 7700
Date of Death: 26/09/1916
Regiment/Service: Royal Army Medical Corps, 3rd Field Ambulance
Grave Reference: Bernafay Wood North Cem. Mem.
Cemetery: BERNAFAY WOOD BRITISH CEMETERY, MONTAUBAN