John and Margaret Scowcroft had started their married life in Bolton and their first three children – Joseph, Ann and John – had been born there. The family moved to Stockport in about 1888 and a further five children – James, Abraham, Walter, Herbert and Edwin - were born in the town. When the Census was taken in 1901, the family was living at 179 Portwood Street. John’s occupation was as a manager in a cotton mill. This may have been the local Bee Hive Mills where Herbert and Walter are known to have been working before they enlisted into the army. At the time of the War, the family had moved to 53 Holly Street.
Herbert’s service number was issued after the beginning of 1917, suggesting that not only had he been conscripted when he became 18, but that he could not have been on active service for very long before he was killed. The number also suggests that he was originally attached to a Divisional Ammunition Column of one of the Welsh Divisions. This may have only been a nominal attachment for his initial training before he was transferred to an artillery battery.
The Third Battle of Ypres had started on 31 July 1917 and was still underway in October, making very slow progress. By then, he will have heard of the death of his older brother, Walter, in August. At the beginning of the month, Herbert and his mates were near the village of Boesinghe where, on the 2nd, they were shelling the enemy front line and communications trenches. This was intended simply to disrupt the routine of the troops opposite so that they never felt safe. There was a similar pattern to the firing the next day. On the 3rd, there was major infantry attack later known as the Battle of Broodseinde. The artillery batteries fired a smoke barrage as cover for the attacking troops which proved effective.
The Brigade’s War Diary, held at the National Archives, records that on the night of the 5th/6th, they moved position and there considerable casualties amongst the men and horses before they reached their new positions at Wood House. The Germans, of course, would have been retaliating with their own shelling of the supply roads along which the guns would be moved. It had been slow progress as the weather had been bad and the mud had made the guns slow-moving easy targets.