Harold Edward HOWES
Rank: Lieutenant
Unit: 1/4th Battalion CHESHIRE reGIMENT
Date of Death: 1 August 1918
Age: 27
Cemetery: Raperie British cemetery, Villemontoire, Aisne, France

Lieutenant Howes was the son of Joseph and Kate Howes. He was born on 26 September 1889 at the family home - 26 Lea Road, Liscard (near Wallasey). The 1901 Census shows the family to be then living in Garston in Lancashire where Joseph, then aged 38, was the railway station master.

Harold worked as a commercial traveller until, on 9 December 1915, he enlisted into the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (service number 28268). He saw overseas service with the Battalion and, it is suggested by the remaining papers in his service file at the National Archives, that he transferred to the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, reaching the rank of Company Sergeant Major.  The file shows him to have have been a well built man, standing 5 feet 9 inches and weightin 12 stone. He had a 36 inch chest which he could expand a further 3 inches.

He applied for a commission at the beginning of July 1916 and joined an officer cadet battalion in the UK on 4 August 1916. A month later, on 9 September, he married Ellen Seed at St Thomas' Church, Heaton Norris. Harold was living at Madison Avenue, Cheadle Hulme and he and Ellen lived together there and would have a son

He was commissioned into the 1/4th Cheshires with effect from 19 December 1916 and joined the Battalion in Palestine where he would serve until the Battalion moved to France only a few weeks before he was killed. His promotion from 2nd Lieutenant to Lieutenant took effect from 19 June 1918 but was not confirmed until after his death.

His commemoration on the memorial indicates he served with the 1/4th Battalion, but his listing with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission wrongly states 1/6th Battalion. It is possible that he enlisted in 1915 as a private soldier in the 1/6th Battalion, as did so many local men (although the only information remaining in official records is his early service with the Light Infantry). His service in the 1/4th is confirmed in that his death is noted in the Battalion's War Diary for the day.

The Second Battle of the Marne had opened on 18 July with an attack by the French Army on German positions north of Soissons. The Cheshires were ordered into action on 23 July, in support of the still advancing French. It was a difficult day with many casualties. On the night of 27/28 July, the Battalion went into reserve, but was back in action again, 24 hours later.

Early on the morning of 1 August, the Battalion was ready to resume the advance from the village of Grand Rozoy, which had been captured by French troops the day before. They were again in support of the French 12th Division and left their trenches in the fourth wave of the attack at 4am. By 7.30, they had advanced through cornfields and taken all their objectives, but the Commanding Officer, Colonel Swindell had been shot. He died, lying in the open, unable to be rescued due to heavy machine gun fire.

At 9am, the cornfield was accidentally set on fire after an enemy ammunition dump exploded. For its own safety, the Battalion was withdrawn 100 yards to a new line. At 11am, the Cheshires were withdrawn a further 200 yards behind the front line to reorganise. During the afternoon, they moved forward to occupy shell holes, 100 yards to the rear of the French front line. In the evening, the troops were heavily shelled and prepared for a German counter-attack but it did not materialise. The French advanced the front line a further 800 yards during the evening.

Sometime during the day, Harold and 15 other Cheshires were killed. Another 45 were wounded. All 16 were originally buried at Cheshire Cemetery, Parcy-et Tigny, very close to where they died. After the end of the War, many of the very small burial grounds, like this one, were closed. The bodies were moved to new permanent cemeteries such as the one at Villemontoire which contains nearly 500 burials from the two weeks fighting in this area.

Harold had written a will on 1 January 1917 which, surprisingly, considering he was married, left everything to his mother, then living at 3 Boston Street, Philadelphia Lane, Norwich. His widow later moved from Cheadle Hulme  to "Oakwood", Queens Drive, Heaton Mersey. This, no doubt, accounts for his commemoration on the Cheadle Hulme, Heaton Mersey and Stockport Memorials.

 (NB; Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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