Rank: Private
Number: 63992
Unit: 25th Battalion MACHINE GUN CORPS
Date of Death: 21 March 1918
Age: 21
Cemetery: Beaumetz-les-Cambrai Military Cemetery No. 1, Pas de Calais, France

In the closing months of 1893, Edward Blackshaw, a coal carter, married Clara Jackson at St Matthew's Church, Stockport. The 1901 Census shows the couple having four children but the oldest - 15 year old Elizabeth may have been Edward's daughter from a previous marriage. The family history website, CheshireBMD, records the marriage, at Stockport, of an Edward Blackshaw and Margaret Marsden in the early 1880s. She is also recorded as having died in 1892. At the time of the census, the family was living at 27 Marsland Street, in the Portwood area of town.

Nothing is known of Herbert's life. He was unmarried when he died and had been living at 29A Shaw Heath. It's not known if the family had moved to this address or if Herbert lived alone.

When Herbert first joined the army, he was assigned to the Cheshire Regiment. His service number, 45851, dates this to round about the spring of 1916. However, he never served overseas with the Regiment and was transferred to the machine gunners when he had finished his training. He was, no doubt, attached to one of the Machine Gun Companies that were amalgamated to form the Battalion on 1 March 1918.

A large-scale German attack had been expected for some time and it was duly delivered in the early morning of 21 March. The British Army's 25th Division, of which Herbert's unit was part, was in reserve near Fremicourt. It was ordered forward but most of the Battalion's guns were not in action on this first day. Each of the Battalion's 64 heavy Vickers guns was operated by a seven man team. Eight of these teams, from "D" Company, were attached to the 11th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment and were deployed in supporting a counter attack near the village of Vaulx. It is highly probable that Herbert was attached to one of these teams and was killed by enemy shellfire.

The German attack had been overwhelming and, over the coming days, the British Army was in full retreat, losing all of the gains of the previous two years. There will have been no time for Herbert's comrades to bury him. However, once the fighting had moved further on, he was buried with dignity by the Germans in the Cemetery where his grave is now tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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