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Remembered Today:

Private Herbert Howarth, 17th Manchesters, Burial Return Form Query


Mark Hone
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A plaque commemorating this old boy of our school has recently been found at a local bank and they asked for further details about him. He was a Private in 17th Manchesters killed on the First Day of the Somme. We visited his grave on our June/July 2006 school battlefields tour. While complying with the bank's request I had a look at his war grave documentation which, of course, has only recently been added to the CWGC entry online.

From his burial record Howarth's body was recovered by 113 Labour Company, apparently at grid reference 62c.A.10.d.6.4 and reburied in Peronne Road, Maricourt. Under 'Was cross on grave?' It says G.R.U.H.20. I get Graves Registration Unit but what does the H.20 refer to ? An additional reference: 5N 64 appears under the 'Means of Identification' column. There are 10 entries on the form but Herbert Howarth's is the only handwritten one.

Any help with deciphering this would be much appreciated.

Sorry, on the original posting I spelled his name Haworth. A slip of the keyboard as we have old boys with both spellings on our war memorial.

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Hi Mark,

I've racked my limited brain capacity to help you with these codes, with no success. However, I have researched initial resting places of other 17th Bttn men in the concentration records for 1/7/16. Many such graves were originally near Vernon Street (top of Talus Bois) and others were near Machine Gun Wood. Both of these locations were on / close to the 17th Bttn line of advance, but Herbert's initial burial was 1/2 mile to the East in the German Front line trench; and I find it strange he was found there. I'll watch the post with interest to see if we get any clues for the numerous unknown graves.

Cheers

Tim

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Thanks Tim. I always thought it likely he was killed early on which was why he had a known grave. However that doesn't now seem to have been the case from what you say. I haven't checked the Map Ref on Linesman.

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Can I suggest contacting the CWGC. I am sure that like all military units the Graves Registration Unit had standard abbreviations that they understood and had specific meanings. I admit the amount of time I see abreviations that mean nothing to me is one thing that bugs me about military research.

I agree with you that G.R.U. is almost certainly Graves Registration Unit.

If they had a H.20 was there an H1 - H19?? Likewise with 5N 64

If you ask and they could supply a full list that you could post on here it would help educate all of us, and probably help others in the future.

Evan

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I've contacted the Forum's resident CWGC expert but he can't help with the abbreviations either.

Yeah, but there's "expert" and then there's the "horse's mouth". Certainly worth an email to CWGC.

Using the co-ordinates converter website, the original burial looks to be just to the east ot the modern D197 road, at around the German front line positions. Perhaps part of the already dug trench system was used for burials?

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On the last two occasions I've contacted the CWGC I received an automated holding reply and nothing further. I realise that they're incredibly busy.

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  • 1 year later...

Mark,

MEN of 15/8/1916 says Herbert was missing since 2/7/1916. I speculate he was wounded at Montauban and he made his way / stretcher bearers took him to the rear - but not where he started from at Cambridge Copse. He may then have been treated and died where he was buried near the KLR start point. It would be interesting to check KLR concentration records to see if there may have been a group in the grid square. That may then indicate there was some form of advance dressing station at the point where Herbert was originally interred.

Guess work I know.

Tim

ps Have you found any reference to Herbert being employed by CWS please?

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Not the CWS-he was working for Parr's Bank in Bury when he enlisted and a plaque to him and Liverpool Pal Percy Simmonds was rededicated at what is today the Bury branch of Natwest recently:

http://www.burytimes.co.uk/news/14267181.Bury_bank_pays_special_tribute_to_World_War_One_heroes_who_were_killed_five_days_apart_in_battle/

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  • 1 month later...

Additional intriguing details about Herbert's death come from a mention in the newspaper obituary of his brother Ernest:

'Corporal Srewart writes that he heard a cry for help and found that a shell had been the means of burying several lads. He called for volunteers to help to dig and left (Herbert) Howarth at this work while he went for a stretcher. On his return in the dark the Corporal missed his way and Howarth and others were not afterwards heard of'. ( Bury Times August 1916).

I wonder how this squares with the seemingly unusual location where his body was eventually discovered? The fact that the incident clearly happened on the night of 1st/2nd July does explain why he was officially reported missing on 2nd.

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He is remembered on a gravestone in Edenfield, his brother also died with the Manchester Regt in July 1916 on the Somme.

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Thanks. Yes, they are one of six pairs of brothers commemorated on the Bury Grammar School War Memorial. Ernest Howarth was a signaller with 18th Manchesters who was killed by a shell on 30th July 1916. It also claimed the life of another Pal from Bury, Corporal John Robert Parry, who is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

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Herbert's had trained with D Company. The Coy HQ was at the main cross-roads where the Pals Memorial is now placed. One can summise Herbert may have been in a trench somewhere near here in the early evening and not there when it was dark. There had been a massive barrage on the village since they arrived and a failed German counter-attack at 9pm - although this was not directed at the D Coy positions. Herbert is buried @ 1 mile south of here.

I'd retain the guess he was wounded, evacuated southwards and killed in shell fire or wounds - then buried in the German line.

T

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  • 5 months later...

Hi Mark,

Have a look at the Concentration Record Private J Hunter of the 2nd RSF.  He is buried in the same grid square as Herbert and even further into French territory in Horn Alley.  Also see James Weilding of 17th Bttn who was buried in Maricourt Military Cem, near the crossroads to Suzanne.  Also a long way from other 90th Brigade graves.  No further guess work from me...

Cheers

Tim

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  • 2 weeks later...

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