Henry MARSDEN
Rank: Private
Number: 43656
Unit: 10th Battalion LINCOLNSHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 30 April 1917
Age: 28
Cemetery: Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, Somme

Harry was named after his father who was a local postman of 86 Booth Street, Stockport (and later of 48 Johnson Street). He is known to have four siblings - Elizabeth, Fred John and Seline. As a boy, he had been a member of the St George's Lads' Drill Company and had become a drum instructor.

On 6 April 1912, he married Mary Boyd at St Thomas' Church and they are thought to have set up home at 147 Bramhall Lane, where they had one child together. Harry worked locally at Sykes' bleachworks, in Edgeley.

War was declared on 4 August 1914 and, the next day, Harry went to the Armoury on Greek Street and enlisted into the local Territorial Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment and was given 1884 as his service number. The pre-War members of the Battalion went overseas within a few weeks but Harry probably didn't go until the middle of 1916. A large batch of newly trained troops were sent to France around June 1916 and were intended to be assigned to the Regiment's front line Territorial Battalion - the 1/6th. However, at that stage in the War, the Battalion had not suffered many casualties and had little need for replacement troops. In consequence, the men were assigned to several different regiments and this is probably when Harry was transferred to the Lincolns.

The 10th Battalion was originally formed of men from Grimsby and was known as the "Grimsby Chums". However, casualties since the summer of 1916 meant there were few of the original members still serving. They had been in action on 9 April 1917, the first day of the Battle of Arras, and after a few days rest, they were back in the line ready to continue the offensive on the 28th. Their objective was to be the heavily defended small town of Roeux. They were ready by 4.15am.

The men's assembly trenches did not face the direction of the attack, so they got out and formed up in the open of No Man's Land. The enemy must have heard this as Harry and his mates started to come under trench mortar, artillery and machine gun fire. Ten minutes later, they moved off at zero hour. The Battalion's War Diary records that the advance seemed to start well but the men "were very soon met by intense machine gun fire and casualties were very numerous. A large number of dead were seen on the ground later on. The machine gun fire came mainly from chateau enfilading our front, also from a house along the road to chemical works, while Clip Trench was strongly manned and the houses and Cemetery full of the enemy."

The Battalion's first objective had been Clip Trench, but the Companies had to take cover in shell holes about 20 yards short. At 5.30am, the enemy came out of their positions to surround the groups of men in the shell holes. Some tried to escape back to the British lines, but were shot down.

The support Companies realised the attack was a failure and withdrew back to the British line where they prepared for an expected German counter attack. This was duly delivered at about 8am. There was hard fighting all morning before the attack was finally driven off at about midday.

Harry's Lieutenant wrote to Mary and it suggests that he was wounded in the initial attack, crossing No Man's Land. "Your dear husband was wounded when he was bravely following me during the great advance. When the shell fell, I was between your husband and a man who was killed and was knocked down by the explosion, but came through unscathed.....I have often chatted with your husband and enjoyed his company. He was brave throughout and a splendid fellow."  

After being injured, Harry will have received attention from the Battalion's own medical officer but this will have been little more than first aid. He will then have been evacuated a few miles behind the front line to a field hospital (known then as a casualty clearing station) where his condition will have been stabilised and any necessary emergency surgery carried out. He will then have been further evacuated to one of the many military hospitals along the Channel coast, where he died.

   
           
   
     
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