Robert Sherratt was the youngest son of Edmund and Elizabeth Sherratt and was Biddulph born and bred. His father was an office clerk at the iron works of R. Heath & Sons, as was his older brother, Gerald. By 1911 the family had moved to ‘Oaklands’, Mill Hayes from the Knowle Style area of Biddulph. Robert was to follow his father and brother into the employment of R. Heath as in 1912 he was taken on as an engineering apprentice for a term of five years. The future looked good for Robert.
With the outbreak of war, Robert and Gerald enlisted together on September 11th 1914 at Biddulph. Gerald’s initial regimental number was 3328 and Robert’s was 3330. Both joined the locally formed Biddulph Territorial Company. Robert’s mother must have been torn between pride for her two sons and fear for their future. The 1911 census records that she had given birth to four and had already lost two children.
Both brothers appeared in the Weekly Evening Sentinel of October 3rd 1914 in what seems to have been something of a propaganda exercise - chastising those men who had not come forward to fight:
Striking Sermon by Vicar of Endon at Biddulph Moor
A striking sermon on harvest time and the war was preached by the Rev. J.S. Morris, Vicar of Endon, at the harvest festival in Christ Church, Biddulph Moor, on Sunday evening.
The sermon was of particular significance, if only on account of the lack of patriotism shown by the dwellers on Biddulph Moor in responding to their country’s call for men. With the exception of two reservists, very few men from off the Moor have responded to the national call for King and country, and the stirring address of the Vicar of Endon must have come as a rude awakening.
The service created a profound impression. There was a packed congregation with visitors from Biddulph and Knypersley – including Privates Gerald and Robert Sherratt, the two sons of Mr. Edmund Sherratt, Knypersley, on leave with the Biddulph Territorial Company from Butterton Hall.
Like the other new recruits of the 1/5th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, Robert was to start his basic training of drill, marching and discipline at Butterton Hall camp. Then the men travelled south to receive more intensive training at camps in the Luton and Harpenden area.
By early summer the following year this new draft was ready for the Western Front. Embarkation took place at Southampton on June 28th 1915 and after crossing the channel they moved inland to their concentration area near St Omer, before joining the 46th North Midland Division in the Ypres salient. Robert served in “C“ company of 1/5th battalion attached to 137th Brigade. Fighting and out of line training continued until October when the division received orders to transfer to the battlefield at Loos.
Arriving early in the morning, the 46 division was to relieve the Guards Division who were already fighting in the Battle of Loos. Although new to the terrain the battalion went into battle that same day, October 13th. They were to attack across no man’s land towards the Hohenzollern Redoubt, a strong enemy defence and take the trench system of Big Willie and Fosse Alley. Within the first ten to fifteen minutes the North Staffords ran into murderous machine gun fire and shelling.
There were over 500 casualties in the battalion with the sad loss of 219 brave infantry men, which included eight of our local soldiers. October 13th 1915 was a black day for Staffordshire and Biddulph. At the age of twenty, Private Sherratt was one of the fallen and his body was never recovered from the battlefield. Later the soldiers had a saying: “as quiet as the Loos dead.”
Robert Sherratt has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, the Biddulph churchyard memorial and board and on the cenotaph.
Mike Turnock and Elaine Heathcote