Harry MCHUGH
Rank: Private
Number: 10556
Unit: 2nd Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 20 July 1916
Age: 26 (based on 1910 Census)
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

In the late 1880s, James McHugh, a tailor, and Bessie Walton married in a civil ceremony registered at Stockport. Within a year or so, their first child was born and they called him Harry. In the middle of the decade, Olive was born. When the census was taken in 1901, the family was living at 25 Lord Street but nothing is known of them after that time. Harry's service number suggests he might have been a pre-War regular soldier or, if not, then he joined up very soon after War was declared in August 1914.

The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July 1916, but the Fusiliers remained in a different sector until the 10th, when they arrived to take over from other exhausted units. Harry's first major attack in the Battle would be his last.

There had been heavy fighting in the south of the battlefield, around High Wood, for several days and, whilst parts had been captured, they had been lost again. At 2am on the 20th, another attempt was made to capture the Wood by the 1st Cameronians and the 1/5th Scottish Rifles. The Fusiliers were held in reserve but, at 8am, they received orders to go forward, in the afternoon, to support the attack. Many of the men were away undertaking fatigue parties and it was not until 2pm that sufficient number had been brought together to be able to advance. The move into the Wood is described in the Regimental History "The advance was slow, as the fallen trees, in foliage, not only blocked the rides but made it difficult to see more than a few yards. About the centre of the wood the companies came up against rifle fire and it seemed to them that the artillery of both sides was concentrating on that point. Still they pressed forward, from tree to tree, from shell-hole to shell-hole: they cleared the enemy from some shallow trenches."  The Fusiliers and the other units managed to clear the Wood of Germans and started to dig in to consolidate the gains.

However, just as night was falling, the Germans launched a strong counter-attack, breaking through the defences held by the Royal Fusiliers on the left. On the right, a similar strong attack forced the Welsh Fusiliers to withdraw a little way. The German attack intensified and there was no option for the British but to retreat to the southern edges of the Wood. Nearly 150 of the Battalion's men had become casualties - dead, wounded or missing.

   
           
   
     
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