BAMBER BRIDGE IN WORLD WAR 1
695256 PTE. R. HOWCROFT. R.F.A.
Richard Howcroft was born in the second quarter of 1890 in Bamber Bridge and baptised at Preston St Mary’s on 3 August. His father was Richard Howcroft (b. 1865 in Much Hoole), a general labourer in a cotton mill. His mother was Alice Mercer (b. 1865 in Preston). Richard and Alice were married at St Saviour’s in Bamber Bridge on 12 June 1886 and they had 10 children but lost 4 in infancy. The survivors were: Isabella (b. 1888), then Richard, then Lily (b. 1895), Ellen (b. 1897), Robert (b. 1899) and finally Thomas (b. 1902). In 1911, the family was living at 1 Co-operative Street, Bamber Bridge. The two youngest children were at school, the rest worked in a cotton mill; Richard jnr was a cotton spinner’s piecer.
Richard enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery on 17 April 1912, when he was 21 years old. He joined the 11th Battery of the 2nd West Lancashire Brigade. His initial service number was 1063 but he later transferred to 1/1 West Lancashire Divisional Ammunition Column with new service number 457. He was called up at the start of the war and later assigned service number 695256. He was posted to “A” Battery of 267 Brigade, which was Divisional Artillery for 53rd (Welsh) Brigade. Richard embarked at Devonport on 17 May 1915 to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and he landed with them at Alexandria some weeks later. In November 1915, he was briefly in Salonika but he then returned to Egypt. The infantry units of 53rd (Welsh) Division had gone to Gallipoli, landing at Suvla Bay on 9 July 1915, but the artillery remained in Egypt. The infantry units suffered terrible losses in the landing at Suvla Bay and in the appalling winter conditions. The surviving men left Gallipoli in December and by January 1916, the infantry and artillery units were back together at Wardan, near Cairo. 58th Division then fought through the Palestine campaign of 1917 and 1918, including the Battles of Gaza (March, April and October 1917), and the capture and defence of Jerusalem (December 1917). In 1917, Richard was assigned to 53rd Divisional Ammunition Column, where he served alongside 695094 William Parkinson, also from Bamber Bridge. In March 1918, they fought at the Battle of Tell’Asur. During the summer of 1918, the Division was ‘Indianised’, in other words, the British infantry units were replaced by Indian units and the British infantrymen were sent to France, though the artillery remained in Palestine. After the Battle of Nablus (September 1918), the Division was withdrawn back to Tell’Asur and by 27 October it returned to Alexandria, and it was here that they received news of the armistice with Turkey on 31 October. Demobilised troops began to return to England on 22 December 1918, but this was too late for Richard Howcroft, who had died in Alexandria of influenza and pneumonia on 24 November. He was 28 years old.
Service Number: 695256
Date of Death: 24/11/1918
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, "A" Bty. 267th Bde.
Cemetery/memorial reference: E. 219.
Cemetery: ALEXANDRIA (HADRA) WAR MEMORIAL CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Mrs. A. Howcroft, of 1 Co-operative Street, Bamber Bridge, Preston, Lancs.