Rank: Rifleman
Number: R/17123
Unit: 16th Battalion KINGS ROYAL RIFLE CORPS
Date of Death: 15 July 1916
Age: 23
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

At the beginning of 1885, Charles Sutcliffe married Mary Jane Plant, a nurse, at St Mary’s Church, Cheadle. They set up home at 48 High Street and had four children before Charles died in 1899, aged 43. Harry was the youngest of the four and, by the time of the Great War, he was working in the offices of Morley’s Ltd. This was probably the local firm of coal merchants of the same name.

The 1914 edition of Kelly’s Directory lists a Benjamin Sutcliffe, the same name as Harry’s eldest brother, who was also carrying out business as a coal merchant from premises at 20 Manchester Road. Possibly this was the family business. Benjamin was also a parish clerk.

Harry enlisted into the army in November 1915 and, by this time, the family is thought to have been living at Rose Cottage on Manchester Road. He had only been in France for a few weeks when he was killed in action. Most original members of the 16th Battalion had been members of the Church Lads Brigade but it is not known if Harry been a member.

1 July saw the opening of the Battle of the Somme, but Harry’s Battalion played no part in the first day. A few days later, on 6 July, the Battalion was ordered forward to undertake a further advance, this time on the heavily defended German positions at High Wood. They went forward over 1000 yards under heavy machine gun fire, with many losses. After many hours fighting, it was realised that the gains could not be held and a withdrawal back to the original positions was ordered.

On 15 July, battalions in this sector were again ordered to attack on an approximate 5 mile front. 100th Brigade, of which Harry’s Battalion was part, was ordered to assault the enemy positions between High Wood and a nearby light railway line. The 16th KRRC was to be in support of the two leading battalions. On the right of the attack, the Highland Light Infantry were quickly stopped by heavy machine gun fire. On the left the 1st Battalion, Queens Regiment, could not get through the uncut German barbed wire. Harry and his comrades were immediately ordered forward to fill the gap between the other units. They advanced 1000 yards over the open ground, losing many men to the enemy machine guns. However, like the attack on 6 July, this one was also a failure and the Battalion was withdrawn to its starting position. Harry was one of 115 members of 16th KRRC who had been killed.

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

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