Herbert was born at 6 Church Lane, Urmston on 22 May 1896. He was the son of Hugh and Mary Heaton. Mr Heaton was a successful commercial traveller. By 1901, when a census was taken the family was living at Barwick in Elmet (to the east of Leeds). They could afford to employ a live-in general servant, 17 year old Agnes Williamson.
In 1908, the Heatons inherited a property named "Combermere" on Woodford Road, Bramhall and it became their family home. In 1909, Herbert was enrolled as a scholar at King's School, Macclesfield (and is commemorated on the school's War Memorial). In 1912, he passed the Cambridge Senior Examination and started work as a clerk with the Royal Insurance Company. In his spare time, Herbert was a teacher at the local Wesleyan Church Sunday school and also a scout leader.
A few months after the War started, Herbert volunteered for the army, joining the 28th (reserve) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers as a private. His enlistment papers still exist at the National Archives and they show him to have been exceptionally tall for those days, standing at 6' 2". He weighed 178 pounds and had a 39" chest. Herbert was given the service number of PS8127. The "PS" refers to the fact that the Battalion was one of the so-called Public School battalions, almost entirely comprised of middle class young men. Many of them were quickly selected to become officers and Herbert was no exception. He was selected in the October and received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers a few weeks later.
Herbert did not go overseas until February 1917, no doubt joining the Battalion when it arrived in France from Egypt.
On the night of 1st September, the Battalion moved into the front line, near Frezenberg, ready for an attack scheduled on 6 September. This would be another small advance forming part of the much wider Third Battle of Ypres which had started on 31 July. The Battalion's War Diary entry for the 5th reads "Enemy artillery fired all day, also a large number of gas shells in evening. Casualties: 1 killed 2nd Lieutenant Heaton".
Although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website records Herbert's rank as "Lieutenant", nothing has been discovered to confirm that he was ever promoted from 2nd Lieutenant.