George and Mary Hooley had married in the Stockport area in the 1870s and would have seven children together before he died in 1888, aged 37. When the Census was taken in 1901, the family was living at 24 Heathland Road, Cale Green and 14 year old Herbert was apprenticed to a joiner, although it’s understood he changed trades and became a painter. In the late spring of 1911, he married Jane Tomlinson at St Thomas Church, Norbury, Hazel Grove. They lived at 312 London Road and would have one son together.
95th Siege Battery was formed at Crosby, near Liverpool in January 1916. Its original members were pre-War Territorial members of the Royal Garrison Artillery and Herbert’s service number is sufficiently low to suggest he might have been one of them. The Siege Batteries of the RGA fired the heaviest weapons in the arsenal of the Army and were situated some way behind the front line. Their weapons would be used to batter enemy strongpoints.
The 95th had taken part in the Battle of the Somme during the summer and autumn of 1916. In spring of 1917, it had been based near Vimy Ridge supporting a major attack by Canadian troops. It was then transferred to the outskirts of the Belgian town of Ypres and was then moved forward to near St Jean to take part in the Third Battle of Ypres which started on 31 July, after several days artillery bombardment.
Few records remain of RGA units so it is not possible to know exactly what happened on 3 August. However, it can be safely assumed that the Battery was in action. The German artillery, of course, would also be active. Seven men from the Battery were killed on 3 August, in a single incident – no doubt a shell fell amongst them. They are buried together at Vlamertinge and the closeness of the headstones strongly suggests that this is a mass grave and it was not possible to identify individual bodies.
Further information about Herbert may be found in the book “Hazel Grove to Armageddon” by John Eaton.