Rank: Private
Number: 242379
Unit: 2/6th Battalion LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 9 October 1917
Age: 28
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, Belgium

In the late 1870s, Alfred Henshall, a brickmaker, married Elizabeth Smith at St Mary's Church, Stockport. By the 1901 Census, they were living at Mill Hill, Poynton with Worth and had six children - Jennett (then 21), Lillie (18), Harold (16), Arthur (12), Mary (11) and Annie (7).

The family history website, FreeBMD, records that a man named Arthur Henshall married Lily Vigerstaff in the September quarter of 1915. This is, almost certainly, our soldier and they are believed to have set up home in Hazel Grove.

Arthur volunteered for the army quite early in the War and was given the service number 12537. He probably got married to Lily shortly before going overseas. This will not have been with the 2/6th Battalion which did not go on active service until March 1917. His final service number, 242379, was issued after January 1917 confirming that he could have been with the 2/6th for very long before he was killed.

The Third Battle of Ypres is often simply known by the name of the village that was an objective of the first few days - Passchendaele. The offensive had started on 31 July and quickly became, literally, bogged down in the mud. The coming weeks were characterised by "bite and hold" advances, where the British troops would make small advances and then consolidate. They were newly developed tactics and they were succeeding in wearing down the German, but at a high cost in lives.

The day that Arthur was killed would be called was later designated as the Battle of Poelcapelle and it would see him and two other local men killed. Samuel Coppock and William Acton would be fighting with the 2/8th Battalion alongside Arthur's unit.

Both Battalions were part of 197 Brigade and they would be in support of the attack by the 3/5th Lancashire Fusiliers. The plan was that the 3/5th would capture the German front line and the other two would then leap-frog to take the second objective described only as positions on the map as the "Blue Line".

The Regimental History records "The weather and the shelling had turned the whole area into a sea of mud and, where one track crossed the Zonnebeke stream, mud of a very adhesive kind came well over the knees of the infantry. Men were often up to their waists in water which had collected in shell holes and there seems little doubt that several were actually drowned through sinking down into the water under the weight of their equipment and sheer exhaustion."

At zero hour, 5.20am, neither Battalion had reached their designated positions. The 2/8th was still 400 yards short but advanced just after 6am in an exhausted condition. There had been no time for even a quick break. By 7.20, their objective had been secured. The 2/6th had been even further back and did not reach the start point until 7.30 but immediately pushed on.

The men of the 2/8th and some from the 3/5th had reached the Blue Line by about 9.30. Some managed to push on further to the outskirts of Passchendaele itself, but all were reported to have been killed. Their bodies were not recovered until 6 November. The troops at the Blue Line were heavily shelled and, in a communications error, a move by other units to form a defensive flank was interpreted as a withdrawal and, so , the Fusiliers pulled back to the original German front line.

Later in the afternoon, orders were received to move forward again to attack the Blue Line but, two minutes before they were due to start, the Germans launched a heavy bombardment and their own counter attack. The counter-attack was driven off, but new orders were now issued to consolidate the gains.

Arthur was originally posted as being missing but his body was subsequently found. He may have one of the men who got into Passchendaele. The bodies of Samuel and William were never found and identified.

By the early 1920s, when the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information, Lily had remarried becoming Mrs Worthington and was living at 18 Hyde Road, Woodley.

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