Harry BEECH
Rank: Private
Number: 235326
Unit: 16th Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 23 April 1918
Age: 22
Cemetery: Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France

Harry probably lived all his life in Stockport until he went overseas with the army in the middle of 1917

His parents were James, who worked in a local hatworks and Sarah Ann. He had a number of younger siblings - Frederick, Ernest, James, Ethel, Mildred, Isabel and Marion. At the time of the War, the family home was at 32 Alpine Road, in the Newbridge Lane area of town. Nothing is known is known of his early life until, on 7 October 1914, he enlisted into the army. He joined the local Territorial Battalion - the 6th Cheshires and was given 2720 as his service number (and later, 265844). He was aged 17 years and 4 months. His medical inspection form records that he was just under the army minimum height of 5' 3" - perhaps with his age making him ineligible for overseas service, the doctor thought it alright to enrol him for home service duties.

Harry stayed in the UK until 10 June 1917, when he was also transferred to the Fusiliers. He was attached to the 4th Battalion then a few days later, to the 16th. Harry had been promoted to Lance Corporal but just before transferring regiments he found himself in trouble for overstaying his leave and lost his stripe.

On 21 April 1918, the Battalion moved into the front line in preparation for a small-scale operation the next day in conjunction with the 13th and 14th Battalions. The intention was to capture some high ground, created by the spoil from a shell hole, which would give important observation over the Ancre Valley in the north of what had been the 1916 Somme battlefield.

There was no "softening up" bombardment of the enemy and the Fusiliers left their trenches advancing across No Man's Land behind a fairly ineffective "creeping" British barrage. They suffered heavy casualties but the 13th Battalion was completely successful in capturing the position. However, in the centre of the attack, the 16th Battalion suffered particularly badly and could only advance 250 yards before being checked by the enemy fire. 51 men were known to be dead. Another 22 were missing, and 161 had been wounded. Amongst the missing was another local man, Frederick Hams. Harry had been badly wounded. He was evacuated away from the front line died the next day, probably at the main dressing station a little way to the rear, before he could be taken to a field hospital. It is likely that the doctor at the dressing station had assessed that Harry's wounds were mortal and he would have been as comfortable as possible until he passed away.  

A few days later, a letter will have arrived at Alpine Road with the news of his death. Four months later, in August, his few personal belongings also arrived back . They included letters, photographs, a religious book, wallet, mirror and fountain pen.

   
           
   
     
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