Andrew NAVEN
Rank: Private
Number: 70628
Unit: 2nd Battalion SHERWOOD FORESTERS
Date of Death: 9 February 1917
Age: 22
Cemetery: Vermelles British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

As far as is known, Andrew lived all his life in Compstall until he enlisted into the army. His father, James, was a labourer in the local calico printworks and, in 1884, had married Ellen Flanagan at a ceremony registered at Hayfield. They set up home in Compstall where, in 1901, they were living at Cross Street (and later at Bridge Street). It was a "two up, two, down" which had to accommodate the couple and their six children. When the Census was taken that year, James' aunt, Mary Walsh, was also living with them in the cramped conditions.

Nothing else is known of Andrew's life except that he joined the army at Stockport; his service number confirming he was not an early volunteer.

The winter of 1917 was a relatively quiet time on the Western Front. The Battle of the Somme had drawn to a close in the late autumn and the summer's battle at Ypres was still in the planning stage. At times like this, the opposing armies would often conduct raids on the trenches opposite. Raids would be used to capture prisoners who could be interrogated for useful intelligence. Anyone else the raiders came across would be killed. The threat of raids was constant and it meant men could never fully settle. It was also a good way of keeping up the fighting spirit of those raiding.

On 8th February, Andrew and his mates came into the front line taking over a sector at "Exeter Castle", near the village of Vermelles. In the early hours of the next morning, British artillery and trench mortars opened fire on No Man's Land, battering down the German barbed wire. The barrage then rolled forward a little way, now falling on the German front line. Other artillery pieces fired a protective smoke barrage. Dashing across No Man's Land just behind the barrage were 100 men from "C" Company. The Battalion's War Diary, held at the National Archives records that when they got across they found that "part of the enemy front line could not be distinguished have been obliterated by our shells."

"The party remained a considerable time in the enemy's line and penetrated 200 yards and bombed or blew up 20 dug-out entrances. The enemy showed little disposition to fight. Eight prisoners were captured, including three wearers of the Iron Cross. They all belonged to the 26th Regiment (mainly Saxons)."

It had been a fairly successful raid although, 2nd Lieutenant Furness and nine other men, including Andrew had been killed. Unusually in such raids, it was safe enough to carry all their bodies back.

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