Clifford RAWLINSON
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 8831
Unit: 17th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 10 July 1916
Age: 23 (based on 1901 Census)
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Harry Rawlinson, originated from Cheadle Hulme and was a gardener by trade. He was married to Rhoda and, when the 1901 Census was taken, the family was living at 41 Lacy Street, Stretford. There were three children - Jessie (then 9), Clifford (8) and Hilda (2) - all three had been born in Lytham. It's not known when they returned to Cheadle Hulme but had done so by the time of the Great War.

In the autumn of 1914, he enlisted in the second of the Manchester "Pals" battalions, and was assigned to No. 6 Platoon, "B" Company. Some details of the Battalion's recruitment and training can be found here. The local newspaper reported, after his death, that, when in training, he won the distinction of being his Brigade's "crack shot", passing his final test first out of 4000 men.

Clifford left England to go on active service in November 1915 and will have taken part in the major offensive of the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July.  On this day, the Manchesters had captured the village of Montauban. 1000 yards east lay Bernafray Wood and a little further on was Trones Wood.

The capture of both woodlands were important stepping stones in the advance and, by 9 July, Bernafray was in British hands. The 17th Manchesters had suffered many casualties on the first of the month but were ordered to assembly positions in Bernafray Wood on the evening of 9 July. The Stockport Advertiser, 6 July 1917, reported that letters from his comrades had spoken in praise of Clifford's coolness and courage. For this reason, he had been selected to lead his section into action, as there were insufficient  senior NCOs available after the casualties of 1 July.

At 6.40am, Clifford left the relative safety of the trenches to cross No Man's Land towards Trones Wood. The attacking Battalions came under heavy shellfire but by 7.15, they rushed the enemy front line trench. The Germans retreated leaving the Wood in British hands. Almost immediately, however, they were shelled from three directions. The shellfire was so intense that it was impossible to advance further, nor was it safe to retreat. Around 3pm, the Germans counter-attacked. The Battalion had now suffered so many casualties that it had no choice but to withdraw back to Bernafray Wood. At 6pm, they were ordered back into the attack, but this was cancelled and they were directed to take cover in a sunken road nearby.

Lt Alan Holt described the situation on 10 July in a letter home "Here we spent the night and next day, waiting to give the Boche something if he tried to push through to the south of the wood. Our new position was road about 10 feet below the level of the fields each side. We dug holes for ourselves in the bank so as to get a little protection from the almost ceaseless hail of shrapnel."

Clifford's death was not officially confirmed until July 1917, until then he had only been reported as "missing", but this was now changed to "presumed to be dead".

)Note: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials project)

   
           
   
     
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