Eric Bennett HAIGH
Rank: Private
Number: 29300
Date of Death: 10 April 1918
Age: 19
Cemetery: Croix-du-Bac British Cemetery, Steenwerk, Nord, France

Samuel Haigh and Mary Hannah Bennett got married in the summer of 1889. Eric's birth had been registered the year previous. He had an older brother, Samuel, who was aged 6 when the 1901 Census was taken. The family was then living at 170 Hall Street, Stockport (later moving to No. 67).

Eric will have been conscripted into the army when he became 18. Initially he was part of a Training Reserve Battalion (service no. 15428) and would have been assigned to the North Lancashires before going on active service.

On 9 April 1918, the German army opened the second phase of its spring offensive in what would become known as the Battle of the Lys. As three weeks before, in the initial phase further south, the attack was of overwhelming proportions and British troops were pushed back. At 3.15pm, the North Lancashires were rushed out of reserve billets. They were ordered to take part in a counter-attack on the advancing Germans near Steenwerck, a small hamlet about 8 kilometres south of the French town of Armetieres. The counter attack went in at 5.30pm and stopped the Germans for the remainder of the evening.

At 2am, on the 10th, the North Lancashires attacked again with orders to push the enemy back over the River Lys. Again they were successful but, later, they had to withdraw their line. At 9am, they attacked in a final attempt to hold back the advancing Germans. The Battalion's War Diary notes that "progress was being made when the enemy attacked across the Croix du Bac - St Maur Road". Over the remainder of the day, the North Lancashires came under increasing pressure and had to withdraw, in stages, back to Steenwerck.

98 men had been killed during the day. As well as Eric, local men Norman Wilson and Harry Bentley, were also dead. Eric is known to be buried in the Cemetery at Steenwerk, possibly by the advancing Germans, but the location of his grave has been lost. His name is now commemorated on a special Memorial within the Cemetery.

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