Herbert ROWLEY
Rank: Private
Number: 26688
Unit: 19th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 20 October 1916
Age: 28
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Herbert was a Yorkshireman by birth, having been born in Leeds. Nothing is known of his early life nor is it known when he moved to the Woodley area. He worked for Briddon & Fowler Ltd which was a company of flour mill engineers in Bredbury. In his spare time, he was a teacher at the Sunday School run by Woodley Primitive Methodist Church.

He enlisted into the army at Manchester and his service number suggests this was probably in the middle of 1915. He was assigned to the fourth of the "Pals" Battalions that were formed by the Manchester Regiment. He was not, however, one of the original Pals who went overseas in November 1915. But he knew it wouldn't be long before he also went on active service and, on 10 February 1916, he married his fiancée, Lucy Annie Palmer. Annie was the daughter of the signalman at Woodley railway station.  

The Battle of the Somme started on 1 July 1916 and, over the coming few weeks, the 19th Battalion suffered many casualties. Herbert probably joined them in France around this time, as part of a draft of replacement troops. At 3.40am, on 18 October, three battalions of 21st Brigade attacked the German positions at Gird Trench near the village of Gueudecourt. Herbert and his comrades were held in reserve and, as the attackers moved forward, the Manchesters occupied the British front line. By the time they had reached it, it was becoming obvious that the attack had failed and the attackers were retreating back.

A further attack was ordered for the afternoon but was later cancelled. During the night, the Manchester dug new trenches to link up some previously captured. During the 19th, the men carried up boxes of hand grenades to the nearby troops. It was hard work as it had rained heavily in the night and the trenches were deep in mud. Work was made even more dangerous as they were under constant heavy shellfire.

On the morning of the 20th, the Commanding Officer inspected the trenches. The Battalion History records "The rain had now ceased but the trenches were in a shockingly bad condition. There were many dead and wounded and several men had completely collapsed but, in spite of their hardships, the remainder were cleaning their rifles, attempting to clear the mud from the trenches and were burying the dead. Our casualties for the day were eight men killed; thirty one wounded and three missing."

Herbert's body was never recovered and identified and he has no known grave.

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