Harry HOOLEY
Rank: Private
Number: 52719
Unit: 11th Battalion CHESHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 27 May 1918
Age: 38
Cemetery: Soissons Memorial, Aisne, France

Private Hooley was the son of William & Elizabeth who lived at 133 Hulme Hall Road, Cheadle Hulme. He had been born in Stockport and that was where he enlisted. His original service number, 4471, suggests he originally enlisted into the local Territorial Battalion, the 6th Cheshires, probably during 1916. It is not known when he transferred units.

Tim Hooley was also a registered voter at the family home in 1918 and was shown as serving with the armed forces. It is presumed he was Harry's brother

During March & April 1918, the German offensives had caused massive casualties, including those killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Many Divisions had been almost wiped out and the 2sth Division was one of them. A period in a quiet sector became vital so that battalions could train newly arrived recruits and the Division was transferred south to near Rheims. It was not, however, going to be a rest. The Germans had carefully concealed their preparations for a major attack that would become known as the Third Battle of the Aisne. On 26 May, captured Germans gave information about the impending assault and, in consequence, the 25th Division was moved up into reserve positions.

At 1am on 27th May, 4000 German guns opened up an artillery barrage along a 40 kilometre front. In front of 25th Division, the front and support trenches were, in the words of the Divisional History, "deluged with shells". The bombardment lasted until 4am when the enemy attacked, quickly over-running the British front line.

Harry's Battalion was holding a line between Concevreux and Roucy. There was no proper trench system in this area and the men were in hastily dug holes. In front of them, the River Aisne offered some protection and the Germans were held up here at about 10am.  By midday, they had crossed over and the situation was becoming more critical by the minute. Large numbers of the enemy were seen moving about 500 yards away to the left of the Battalion's position. There was no British artillery support, but machine gun and rifle fire held them off for a while.

At 3.15pm, the battalion was forced to retire and take up new positions at Ventelay. During the early evening, the Germans attempted several attacks on the new line but were driven off by heavy machine gun fire. However, by 9pm, the situation had again become critical and the Cheshires were ordered to withdraw. This was carried out successfully.

Although the Cheshires had been under artillery and infantry attack all day, they were very fortunate in terms of casualties. Official records indicate that some 2200 British soldiers were killed during the day's fighting. Only three, including Harry, were 11th Cheshire's.

(NB: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website.)

   
           
   
     
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