19723 PTE. H. BLACKBURN. CHESH.R.

 

Henry Blackburn was born on 29 February 1892 in Bamber Bridge and baptised at St Saviour’s on 10 April.  His father was John Blackburn (b. 1870 in Clayton Le Woods), a cloth dryer in the calico print works.  His mother was Alice Green (b. 1866 in Bamber Bridge).  John and Alice were married on Christmas Eve 1891 and they had 7 children, five of whom survived infancy: Henry was the oldest, followed by Rhoda (b. 1894), John (b. 1896), Mary Ann (1899-1904), Margaret (b. 1901) and Alfred (b. 1903).  In 1911, the family was living at 12 Club Street, Bamber Bridge.  Henry was working as a weaver.

 

Henry was probably called up in late 1916.  He was given service number 19723 and posted to 15th Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment.  15th (Service) Battalion (1st Birkenhead) was initially formed in 1914 as a bantam battalion (formed by men of small stature).  They came under orders of 105th Brigade in 35th Division.  The bantams were very popular at home and were often featured in the press. However, by the end of 1916, it was found that the general fitness and condition of men volunteering as bantams was no longer up to the standard required.  Brigades were informed that no more undersized men would be accepted, and the Divisions lost their bantam status as replacements diluted the number of small men in the mix.  So by the time Henry joined the battalion they were recruiting regular sized men.  From a newspaper report published when Henry was reported missing in action, we know that he served with 13th Platoon of Z Company.

 

In 1917, 35th Division was engaged in the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line and later in the year at the Third Battle of Ypres, in the fighting in Houthulst Forest and the Second Battle of Passchendaele.  In 1918, they were caught in the German Spring Offensive.  From 10-23 March 1918, the Bn was in camp at Noyon, about 50kms south-east of Amiens.  They spent their time in a mixture of training and reconnaissance of enemy lines, but also at rest and playing football – the quiet before the storm!  On 23 March, they entrained for Méricourt-l’Abbé, further north and about 20kms east of Amiens.  They joined the attempt to halt the German advance on the road from Bray-sur-Somme to Méaulte, south of Albert.  The town of Albert was taken by the Germans on 27 March and it was around here that Henry was reported missing in action.  He was 26 years old.  Losses were heavy on both sides but by now the German advance was running out of steam and the operation would be called off a few days later.  The Bn was relieved on 30 March and went to billets at La Houssoye. 

 

Rank:  Private

Service Number:  19723

Date of Death:  27/03/1918

Age:  26

Regiment/Service: Cheshire Regiment, 15th Bn

Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 35 and 36.

Memorial:  POZIERES MEMORIAL

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