Henry WHITWORTH
Rank: Captain
Number:
Unit: (attached to) 11th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 27 September 1918
Age: 25
Cemetery: Chapel Corner Cemetery, Sauchy-Lestree, Pas de Calais, France

Henry was born, on 24 January 1893, into a comfortable middle class family. His father, Alfred, was a Company Secretary and, when the 1901 Census was taken, was living at "Moorlands" in Monton, Eccles. His wife, Harriett, had given birth to six children - Mary (then 14), Lucy (12), Henry (8), Lloyd (6), Phyllis (4) and Eileen (2). Alfred's income allowed the family to employ two live-in servants - Nellie Richmond, 22, as cook and Martha Rigby, 17, housemaid.

Henry had been educated at Market Bosworth Grammar School and had then been employed by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Ltd. He worked as a clerk in the office of the Chief Goods manager. By now the family was living at Brackley House, Norris Bank, Stockport. When War was declared in August 1914, Henry was quick to enlist and, as with many young middle class recruits, he was quickly selected to become an officer. His commission, as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1/8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment dates to 10 October 1914. A month later, he was promoted to an acting rank of Captain.

The 8th Battalion had left the UK in September 1914 for Egypt and, in May 1915, went into action at Gallipoli. Henry did not join them there until 8 December and, when he did it was as a Lieutenant. On the 11th, he was put in charge of a party of troops assigned to the undertake fatigues for the Royal Engineers at the landing beach. In early January, all British troops had been evacuated from the failed campaign and the Manchesters went back to Egypt.

In due course, the 8th Battalion was sent to France but on 28 April 1917, Henry had to report sick. He was diagnosed as having an anal fistula which had started with a small abscess which had developed in the months since he was in Egypt. He was briefly admitted to a military hospital at Rouen and, on 1 May, was sent back to the UK aboard HM Hospital Ship "Western Australia". He was a patient at a hospital on the racecourse at Scarborough where, on 31 July, he was pronounced fit.

At about this time, he applied for a transfer to the Tank Corps and his service file at the National Archives includes a note form his Battalion's medical officer stating he was fit for duty with Corps. However, he did not get his wish but was instead transferred to the Regiment's 11th Battalion. It is probable that this was when he was promoted to a permanent captaincy.

The action in which Henry was killed was the opening day of what would later be officially designated as the Battle of the Canal du Nord. It was one of the most significant engagements of the closing stages of the War which led to the breaching of the main German defensive system known as the Hindenberg Line.

The 11th Manchesters were to act in support of Canadian infantry, following behind them and mopping up any pockets of resistance. The advance started on schedule just after 9am and news soon came that the Germans were still occupying parts of the village of Sains les Marquoin and also had machine guns in the nearby Keith Wood. "S" Company was despatched to cross the canal south of the village, work round to the north and root out the Germans. The troops in Keith Wood were also dealt with and then battalion then continued its advance. The Canadians had been held up but the arriving Manchesters helped to capture the objective after some fierce fighting. Casualties so far had been relatively light and the troops halted here for about 40 minutes to regroup.

The Battalion's War Diary notes that an enemy "gun team pulled out a field gun on to the road...and attempted to fire over open sights. They were engaged with a Lewis gun and one platoon was sent to capture them. Only one round was fired. The team bolted and the gun was captured." The Battalion then resumed its advance up slopes towards Cauchicourt Farm. As they crossed over the ridge they came under heavy machine gun fire and this is when the major of casualties occurred.  "We advanced in short rushes along the high ground and eventually succeeded in capturing the machine gun nest which had been giving us considerable trouble." As the advance continued to its final objective at Oisy le Verger, one company met considerable opposition before driving the enemy back. 7 officers, including Henry, and 126 other ranks had become casualties (although not all fatal). One of those who died was Harold Sheppard.

   
           
   
     
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