Edgar BATTERSBY
Rank: Private
Number: 7409
Unit: 1st Battalion HONOURABLE ARTILLERY COMPANY
Date of Death: 29 April 1917
Age: 37
Cemetery: Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Edgar was a member of the family which owned the well known hatmaking company of the same name, based in Offerton. William and Mary Battersby had a total of eleven children of whom nine survived infancy. He and three of his brothers were directors or managers of the company. Edgar had undertaken a course in dyeing in Germany before the War and spoke the language fluently. His specialist expertise meant he was needed to continue to manage the factory when War was declared in August 1914. William Battersby died in February 1915 and this further delayed him joining up.

As with many local middle class men, Edgar played lacrosse as his sport of choice. He was still a playing member of the Offerton Club and had only recently relinquished his position as captain of the First Team. In his younger days he had played for Cheshire and was on the committee of both the County Association and the North of England Association.

Before he was able to enlist he is understood to have had an operation to correct varicose veins to ensure he was fully fit and he finally joined up in November 1915, going overseas on 26 November 1916. In spite of its name, the Honourable Artillery Company was primarily an infantry regiment - the oldest in the British Army - although it also had several artillery batteries. 

The Battle of Arras had started on 9 April with a British attack from Vimy Ridge in the north to Bullecourt in the south. Nearly three weeks later, the fighting was continuing and the HAC and the other battalions of the 63rd Division were ordered to assault the German positions at Gavrelle.

The attack was scheduled to take place on 28 April and would be delivered by two battalions of Royal Marine Light Infantry. Edgar and his comrades would be in reserve ready to support the marines. The main attack started at 4.25am and, by about 6.30, the HAC was ordered to move forward through the trench system to attack a German strongpoint which was pouring heavy fire onto the marines. They found they couldn't get close enough to engage the enemy and sent back for a supply of rifle grenades. It took until about 9am to capture the position by which time the 1st Battalion, Royal Marines, had been virtually wiped out. Within 90 minutes, the Germans had reorganised and counterattacked driving the British back to their original front line. The men of the HAC now put up a determined defence and were able to fight off the Germans. They formed a defensive flank, holding the positionfor the remainder of the day. In comparison with the marines,, they had been very fortunate. Only 11 had been killed.

The next day, Edgar and his comrades again attacked the German strongpoint. Again, in comparison with other units, the HAC would get off lightly (Edgar would be one of only six killed). Other attacking units suffered casualties from heavy German shellfire and became disorganised. Another German counter-attack started to push back the British. At this point, one of the HAC officers, 2nd Lieutenant Pollard, dashed forward and with only four men, attacked the Germans with grenades, completely breaking up the attack and regaining all the lost ground. He was awarded the Victoria Cross of this action.

Meanwhile, Edgar, who was acting as a stretcher bearer, was wounded by shrapnel along with another bearer. They both went to the first aid post just behind the  front line and were treated there. That is the last that anyone heard of either of them and it must be presumed that they were hit by another shell and, probably, literally blown to pieces.

Writing in the Stockport Express on 19 July, Edgar's friend, 2nd Lieutenant W Penley Fuidge, London Regiment said "He and I joined the HAC on the same day in April 1915 and from that time onwards a friendship spring up between us which will ever be in my memory. Being my senior in age, he seemed to have watched over me with a fatherly interest and was ever ready to show me kindness and consideration.....Mr Battersby, like myself, was qualifying for a commission and no doubt he would have attained that military promotion if the order for France had not interfered. I am certain of this, he would have made a splendid officer and kindly leader of men. To me, his death is an unspeakable loss but his memory will ever be sacred and inspiring. From the first, I regarded him as a comrade of high moral worth and, in the future records of Stockport men "sacrificed in the field of battle" , none will be more deserved the gratitude and appreciation of his fellow citizens."

A Memorial to Edgar and other employees of the Company is at St Alban's Church in Offerton.

(Updated: February 2008. My thanks to one of Edgar's descendents for information received. JH)

   
           
   
     
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