Samuel William Booth

Name Samuel William Booth (known as 'William')
Corps Northamptonshire Regiment “D” Coy. 7th Battalion
Rank Private
Service No. 40012
Date/Place of entry Cottingham
Date of death 11 October 1918 Killed in Action
Memorial/Grave 4 Cagnoncles Communal Cemetery

Samuel William Booth was born in 1897, the only son of Thomas Edward Booth and his wife Priscilla nee Beadsworth (Beesworth) of Middleton. Two sisters, Elsie Emma and Matilda Priscilla arrived in 1903 and 1907.

Priscilla Booth’s eldest sister Sarah was married to Solomon Oliver and their sons Frederick and Albert Oliver also served in the WW1. Another sister, Alice was married to Charles Crane; their third son Thomas was a regular soldier in the 2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment, and in 1911 was stationed at Fort St George in Madras, India, along with William James Tansley.

The Booth family first arrived in Middleton in 1851 when Samuel William’s grandfather John was listed as an apprentice to rope maker Henry Dexter. Young John was then sixteen and Henry Dexter seventy three. At first sight it seems a little surprising that John, who grew up in Leicester, should have taken up an apprenticeship in Middleton as the trend in Victorian England was for young people to leave their villages to find work in towns and cities.

John’s father had been a bookbinder before he died in 1846 aged thirty five, leaving his wife with seven children to provide for. The young family lived in Calais Street in St. Margaret’s parish, then one of Leicester’s slums. A couple of streets away lived Edward Dexter, a son of Henry the rope maker so it seems possible that the two families knew one another. John Booth’s younger brother Thomas also became a rope maker’s apprentice though he worked for old Henry’s son John in East Carlton; John Dexter also kept the Red Lion.

John Samuel stayed with Henry Dexter and continued to live in his household after Henry became blind. In 1870 he got married to a woman named Mary who according to subsequent census entries was born in Gretton about 1847; her surname remains a mystery for now. They brought up three sons at Middleton Town End where John carried on working as a rope maker until retiring some time before 1911.

Their eldest son was Thomas Edward Booth, born in 1871. He became an estate carpenter and in 1901 was living next door to Charles Dexter, another rope maker, in Middleton Main Street. Thomas married Priscilla Beadsworth in 1896.

In 1911 their son Samuel William was working as an assistant gardener, possibly to his gardener uncle John Henry Booth who was still living at the town end with Samuel William’s grandparents.

His military record does not state when he enlisted but he was eighteen in 1915 so he could have volunteered in that year. Given that he joined the7th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment, volunteering seems a strong possibility. John Humphrey Muggleton of Wilbarston, who was the same age as Samuel William, was also in the 7th.. He would have been a pupil of Samuel William’s uncle of the same name who was the Wilbarston schoolmaster. John Humphrey was killed in 1915.

The 7th (Service) Battalion was formed as a battalion of 250 sportsmen in September 1914 by Edgar Mobbs, a celebrated rugby international from Northampton who would take over command in 1916. It was one of Kitchener’s New Armies.

In September 1915 the 7th landed at Boulogne and joined the 73rd Brigade, 24th division on the Western Front.  Within days the Division had to make several lengthy forced marches which brought it into the reserve for the assault at Loos. It was sent into action on 26 September, and promptly suffered nearly 4200 casualties with very little to show for it. The following year it continued to fight on the Somme, followed in 1917 by the Battles of Vimy Ridge, Messines, and the Third Battle of Ypres.

1918 saw the 7th Northamptonshires in further action on the Somme including the Battles of St Quentin and the Avre, and the Allied advance towards the Hindenburg Line in which the 5th, 6th and 7th Northamptonshires were all involved. The British Army, supported by the French Army, had the task of breaking the Line in the Cambrai-St Quentin direction and on 8th October the 2nd Battle of Cambrai began.

The 24th Diviison, part of the 3rd Army under General Byng, crossed three German lines of defence in company with the 1st and 4th Armies and took Cambrai over the following two days with relative ease. Over three hundred tanks were used, closely supported by infantry and aircraft.  British casualties were light but included Samuel William Booth. He died on the 10th or 11th aged twenty-one, less than five weeks before the war ended.

He is buried in the small communal cemetery of Cagnoncles, a village five kilometres east of Cambrai. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission all the soldiers buried here died between 9-10 October 1918, and were buried by the 13th Middlesex Regiment. All but one belonged to the Northamptonshire Regiment.

Samuel William was survived by his parents, sisters and probably his grandmother Mary Booth; grandfather Samuel had died in 1914. His father Thomas died in 1944 and his mother Priscilla in 1947.