R/14599 RIFLEMAN W. H. HARGREAVES, K.R.R.C.

 

Wilfred Henry (known as Fred) Hargreaves was born in the first quarter of 1884 in Bamber Bridge.  His father was William Henry Hargreaves (b. 1851 in Blackburn), who by 1911 was a mill manager, living at 369 Preston Old Road, Blackburn.  His mother was Jane Bury (b. 1851 in Oswaldtwistle).  William and Jane were married in 1873 and lived briefly in Oswaldtwistle before moving to School Lane in Bamber Bridge, where they lived at 52 Brandiforth Street until the 1890s, when they moved to Blackburn.  They had 7 children, one of whom died in infancy.  The surviving 6 were: John Bury (b. 1875), Jane Ann (b. 1876), Esther Mary (b. 1878), William Ewart (b. 1879), then Fred, and finally Herbert (b. 1890).

 

In 1905, Fred married Annie Wardley (b. 1885 in Blackburn).  They lived in Blackburn and had three children, Harold (b. 1906), Olive (b. 1908) and Henry (b. 1913).  Fred enlisted at Blackburn on 15 July 1915, at the time he was living at 51 Willis Street, Cherry Tree, Blackburn.  He was a short but powerfully built man, just 5’ 2½” tall, but weighing 130lbs and with a 37” chest.  He was assigned service number 14599 and was posted to 1Bn King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

 

Fred arrived in France on 25 November 1915, and shortly afterwards on 8 December 1915 his Battalion (1KRRC) joined 99th Brigade of 2nd Division.  The Battalion had already been engaged in the Battles of Festubert and Loos earlier that year, but Fred would spend most of the winter and early spring in preparation for the major battle planned for later in 1916.

 

July 1916 Battle of Delville Wood (remember 1KRRC are part of 99th Brigade of 2nd Division)

German artillery fired on the routes into Longueval and sent alarm signals aloft from the front line several times each day. On 27 July, every British gun in range, fired on the wood and village from 6:10 –7:10 a.m., as infantry patrols went forward through a German counter-bombardment, to study the effect of the British fire. The patrols found "a horrible scene of chaos and destruction". When the bombardment began, about sixty German soldiers surrendered to the 2nd Division and at zero hour, two battalions of the 99th Brigade advanced, with trench-mortar and machine-gun sections in support. The infantry found a shambles of shell-craters, shattered trees and débris. After a ten-minute advance, the troops reached a trench along Prince's Street, full of dead and wounded German infantry and took several prisoners. The advance was continued when the barrage lifted by the supporting companies, which moved to the final objective about 50 yards (46 m) inside the northern fringe of the wood around 9:00 a.m. A third battalion moved forward to mop up and guard the flanks but avoided the east end of the wood. As consolidation began, German artillery fired along Prince's Street and caused far more casualties than those suffered during the attack.

On the left flank, the 15th Brigade of the 5th Division, attacked with one battalion forward and one in support. German artillery-fire before zero hour was so extensive, that most of a company of the forward battalion was buried and the Stokes mortars knocked out. The support battalion was pushed forward and both advanced on time into the west end of the wood, where they linked with the 99th Brigade. The attack on Longueval was hampered by the German barrage to the south, which cut communications and by several machine-guns firing from the village. An attempt by the Germans to reinforce the garrison from Flers failed, when British artillery-fire fell between the villages but the German infantry held out at the north end of Longueval. A British line was eventually established from the north-west of Delville Wood, south-west into the village, below the orchards at Duke Street and Piccadilly. A German counter-attack began at 9:30 a.m., from the east end of Delville Wood against the 99th Brigade.

The German attack eventually penetrated behind Prince's Street and pushed the British line back to face north-east. Communications with the rear were cut several times and when the Brigade commander contradicted a rumour that the wood had been lost, the 2nd Division headquarters assumed that the wood was empty of Germans. Skirmishing continued and during the night, two battalions of the 6th Brigade took over from the 99th Brigade.

Fred was reported missing on 27 July 1916 and later considered to have been killed on that date.  He was 33 years old.

 

During July 1916, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps had 687 officers and men killed.  Of these, 132 were from 1Bn KRRC and this Bn lost 116 officers and men in the single day 27 July 1916.

 

His effects of £1 18s 1d were returned to his widow, and after the War she received a War Gratuity of £3 10s, for herself and their children.  At that time, they were living at 10 Wyndham Street, Blackburn.  Because his body was never recovered, Annie had to write to the War Office in August 1917 to obtain a certificate so she could withdraw her ‘death money’.

 

Rank:  Rifleman

Service No:  R/14599

Date of Death:  27/07/1916

Age:  33

Regiment/Service:  King's Royal Rifle Corps, 1st Bn.

Panel Reference:  Pier and Face 13 A and 13 B.

Memorial:  THIEPVAL MEMORIAL

 

His brother Herbert was 22396 PTE. H. HARGREAVES, CHESHIRE REGT. (3 Battalion).  Herbert enlisted on 10 December 1915 and was called up on 6 May 1916.  He enlisted initially with the 3Bn East Lancs Regt. and went with them to Mesopotamia on 7 September 1916, but on 6 June 1917 he was transferred to the Cheshires, with whom he served in Egypt and Salonika.  He ended the War in Salonika and was discharged in May 1919.

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