Henry Acton and Eliza Ann Swann had married in Manchester in 1875 and , over the years, would have at least seven children. George Henry Acton was the fourth child and their first son. He was born in Heaton Mersey and was always known by his middle name. The family had lived at 6 Beech Road in the early 1900s before moving to 14 Poplar Street where they lived for many years. They wroshipped at St John’s Church and Henry, junior, attended its Day and Sunday Schools.
In December 1914, he went to one of the army recruiting offices in Manchester and was assigned to the artillery. After training, he went overseas on active service on 26 August 1915. His younger brother, Tom, was also serving by 1917. In the summer and autumn of 1916, Henry will have seen action throughout the Battle of the Somme. On 25 January 1917, the Brigade was detached from the other troops of 23rd Division and became an “Army Brigade”. These appear to have been fairly mobile units and were sent where they were most needed. Few day-to-day records of their operations still exist and it is not possible to know exactly what happened to Henry.
The Huts Cemetery is some six kilometres south west of the Belgian town of Ieper (then Ypres) and most of the burials there are artillerymen, like Henry. He is known to have been killed in action and it is most likely that he was hit by shrapnel from an exploding German shell that had been targeted on the Battery position. His officer later wrote to the family “He was always a cheerful lad and an excellent soldier. In every way, I can assure you that his loss is a blow to the battery. Both officer sand men feel his death very deeply.”
One of his mates also wrote home: “God alone knows how we shall miss him in the days to come, for he was the best lad in the battery. Duty was before everything for Henry; his readiness for duty was as a motto for him. He was always straight forward and willing to do anything for anyone in difficulties. Henry gave his life for God and country, as a true British soldier, without fear.”