Reginald HUNT
Rank: Private
Number: 54252
Unit: 12th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 13 September 1918
Age: 22
Cemetery: Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France

Reginald was born in Dunham on the Hill, near Helsby, the son of local policeman, John Hunt. The 1901 Census shows that John, then a Sergeant, was living at Frodsham police station with his wife, Martha and their three children - James (then 11), John (8) and Reginald (4).

By the time of the Great War, John had been transferred to Hazel Grove and the family was living at 361 London Road. When John enlisted, he was assigned to the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry and given the service number of 4464. The Yeomanry was the cavalry arm of the Territorial Force. At the beginning of 1917, Territorial soldiers were given new six-digit numbers and Reginald's was 245612.

Most cavalry troops on the Western front had fought as ordinary infantry for some time and, in July 1917, the Duke's units were disbanded and, after training, the men were sent to join the 12th Manchesters.

Reginald is buried in a Cemetery used by a number of military hospitals and he is known to have died from wounds he'd received. As such, it is impossible to be sure when he was injured but the Battalion had been in action only a few days before as described below and this probably when it happened.

By early September 1918, the Allied forces had been on the attack for a month and had made great progress. The coming attacks would lead to the breaching of the main German line of defence known as the Hindenberg Line. In the sector where the 12th Manchesters were fighting, a preparatory attack was to be made to capture high ground near Gouzeaucourt which overlooked the Line. The Battalion's precise objectives were positions known as African Trench and Heather Support Trench.

Reginald and his mates moved into position at 1am on 9 September, ready for zero hour at 5.30am. Their assembly positions were in a sunken road near the main road running between Gouzeaucourt and Fins. "B" and "C" Companies led the attack with "A" and "D" in support about 100 yards behind. "B" Company quickly secured their objective, capturing a considerable number of prisoners and were soon joined by "D". North of the road, "C" and "A" were meeting considerable opposition and suffered quite a few casualties.

Shortly afterwards, the Germans launched a strong counterattack, mainly against the positions held by "B" Company. Encouraged by their comrades, the German prisoners now attacked their captors grabbing whatever weapons came to hand and there was fierce hand-to-hand fighting. The Company commander was reported to have been killed by a bayonet wound to the chest.

All four companies were now coming under attack, with the Germans advancing down the main road. The Battalion history recounts that the German advance was led by an officer well in front of his men and encouraging them with his swagger stick. The Manchesters opened fire with their light Lewis machine guns and the Germans took cover in a ditch. After about ten minutes, the German officer was seen again encouraging his men and a Manchesters officer shouted to him to surrender. He refused and fired his revolver at the Manchester man and then ran back towards his troops. At this point he was shot and killed by a Lewis gunner. His body was later searched and he was identified as Ober-Leutnant Karl Ludwig Axel Eduard von Oppenfeld of the 2nd Kurassier Regiment, 6th Cavalry Division. This brave man was an ex-student of Heidleburg University and had been awarded the Iron Cross. After the War, the commander of "D" Company managed to track down von Oppenfeld's family and returned his inscribed cigarette case to them . At the family's request, he visited the man's grave at Gouzeaucourt in 1932.

Meanwhile, casualties had continued to mount and only "D" Company was operating as a coherent unit: the remainder of the Battalion were fighting in small groups. At 11.15 am, orders arrived to undertake a small withdrawal to the protection of nearby trenches. This was completed without problem and the remnants of the battalion were able to hold this position until they were relieved during the night of 10/11th.

Although many men were wounded, fatalities were relatively light bearing in mind the desperate fighting of the day. Thomas Watson was one of 30 killed. Reginald will have received medical attention from the Battalion's own medical officer, just behind the front line, but this will have been little more than first aid. He will then have been evacuated to a field hospital a few miles away where any urgent surgery would have taken place and his condition stabilised. A further evacuation would have taken place to Abbeville.

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