Samuel Evans was born in Burnley in 1891 to William and Isabella Evans, both of whom had moved to the town from Cheshire and Cumberland respectively, to work in the cotton industry. The 1891 census shows Isabella’s wider family were in Burnley as well and it was at some point prior to the turn of the century that William, Isabella and Samuel moved the short distance to Rawtenstall, where they became parishioners of St James the Less church.
The 1901 census, with Samuel at 10 years of age, shows the family living in Lord Street West, Rawtenstall, just off Kay Street but now with all its houses demolished. Samuel left school and found work in a local felt manufacturing mill and in 1910 married Margaret (Maggie) Ann Pooley, the sister of Benjamin Pooley, (Link here to Ben Pooley) also commemorated as one of the 25 parishioners killed in the war.
The 1911 census shows ‘Sam and Maggie’ living in single room accommodation in Back Bank Street with their 4 month old daughter, Mary Elizabeth. Both were working – Sam as a felt card feeder and Maggie as a cotton spinner. Sadly, Mary Elizabeth died later that year, but in early 1914 a second daughter, Annie, was born. Annie was to become close friends for many years with her cousin Kathleen Testa, one of our oldest living parishioners.
Shortly after war was declared that year, Sam enlisted with the East Lancashire Regiment. By that time his parents had moved to 4, Fall Barn Fold, Rawtenstall and whilst Sam was away, Maggie and Annie moved to no 7 Fall Barn Fold.
Sam’s service, in both the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the East Lancashire Regiment saw him in France and Flanders for what would be the remaining 3 years of his life. On 20th January 1915 his records show him as being deployed into the Western Europe Theatre of War. There, Sam fought on the Western Front, gaining promotion to the rank of Corporal, until his death on 24th April 1918.
At dawn on that day Sam’s battalion were occupying trenches in front of the village of Villers-Bretonneux on the Somme when they were forced back and overwhelmed by heavy enemy bombardment and infantry supported by tanks, gas and liquid fire. Sam and many others, whose bodies were either never recovered or, if they were, were unidentifiable, died in that attack.
In December 1919 Sam’s widow, Maggie, received his remaining personal effects, which included a benefit payment for their daughter Annie.
Sam is commemorated on the Pozieres memorial on the Somme, along with over 14,000 others who fought in the battlefields there and have no known grave.