Herbert Hampson ROFE
Rank: Private
Number: 61143
Unit: 1/8th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 6 November 1918
Age: 20
Cemetery: Hargnies Communal Cemetery, Nord, France

Herbert Rofe had been born in Flixton and lived there at least until he was two. Later he is recorded as living with his parents, Harry James and Sarah Louisa at Tan-y-Galia, Tal-y-Cafn, near Conwy, North Wales. When I first researched Herbert's story, in 2003, I did not know his connection with Cheadle Hulme. Since then, I have discovered the family in the 1914 edition of Kelly's Directory, which lists Harry Rofe as living at 15 Station Road. The family was not listed in the 1910 edition so it would seem that their stay in the area was quite brief.

In what proved to be the final days of the War, a further advance was ordered for 4 November along the entire front line held by the First, Third and Fourth British Armies. 8th Manchesters would go into action two days later. Secrecy was essential and all troop movements were to be made in darkness. During the afternoon of 5 November, they had moved up to the Forest of Mormal near to the hamlet of Herbignies in northern France. Rain had been falling steadily for several days and the forest roads were deep in mud. Progress was slow as machine guns, ammunition and supplies had to be man-handled. The enemy continued to shell the forest spasmodically and, although casualties were light, it was an unnerving experience for the men.

By 3.30am on 6 November, Herbert and his comrades had relieved a battalion of New Zealand troops and were now part of the vanguard of the advance. The relief was reported to have been particularly difficult due to the darkness, the state of the roads and an uncertainty as to exactly where the New Zealanders were.

At 6.30am, the advance was resumed with the Manchesters on the left of the attack and the 5th East Lancashires on the right. The mud had meant that few heavy guns had been brought up and the attack would take place with only minimal artillery support. The Lancashires, however, gained their objective after heavy fighting, but, for the Manchesters, progress was slower. Their left flank was exposed to heavy machine gun fire from Hargnies. Casualties were serious and one company lost all but one of its officers. They had to make their way through thick hedges, every gap of which was under direct machine gun fire. They were unable to move more than a couple of hundred yards out of the wood. Fighting continued all day until darkness, when the troops took some rest on under hedges or in ditches.  

The state of the roads meant that ambulances could not be brought closer than two and a half miles to where the fighting was taking place. This coupled with the continuing artillery and machine gun fire made the evacuation of the wounded a slow and dangerous job. Herbert was one of 24 members of his Battalion killed that day.

The next day, the advance continued and four days later the war ended.

(Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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