Harry TURNER
Rank: Private
Number: 22420
Unit: 23rd Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 22 October 1917
Age: 25
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Little is known about Harry's life other than Regimental records published after the War indicate he had been born in Stockport and was still living in the area when he enlisted into the Army at Manchester. The War Graves Commission records that he was the son of Alice and the late Henry Turner of 16 Piccadilly, Stockport.

When War was declared in August 1914, many men tried to enlist into the army but were rejected as they were under the minimum height requirement of 5' 3". However, by November, there had been such a clamour over this that separate "Bantam Battalions" were formed for men whose height was between 5' and 5' 3" and who were otherwise fit. This is when Harry joined up and he was assigned to No. 14 Platoon in "D" Company. The Battalion was officially called the 23rd Battalion but was known to everyone as the 8th City Pals. Some details of the recruitment and training of the Pals can be found here.

The Third Battle of Ypres (often known as Passchendaele) had started on 31 July and was still grinding on nearly three months later. The British troops had slowly advanced up the Passchendaele Ridge in a series of "bite and hold" attacks. Another small scale advance was scheduled for 22 October. It would involve 4 British Divisions - approximately 70,000 men.

On the 35th Division front, the attack would be led by 23rd Manchesters on the right and 17th Lancashire Fusiliers on the left. Throughout the whole campaign, there had been heavy rain and deep mud but the ground had dried out a little and it was hoped the men would be able to make quick progress. They attacked at 5.35am. The Regimental Archives holds an unpublished history of the Battalion, which now takes up the story:-

"The first objective was reached with slight casualties. From this point, however, resistance was more stubborn and very heavy rifle and machine gun fire was experienced on both flanks. In fact so devastating was the fire that all the officers were either killed or wounded and it was almost the same with the NCOs and men."

In fact, the machine gun fire was coming from some huts which had been overlooked in planning the attack. One small group of Manchesters attempted to attack pillbox near "Six Roads" but without success.

"..the Battalion was unable to make further progress. Such survivors as could be collected - that is about 50 other ranks, under a Company Sergeant Major, withdrew to their original line.

The attack had been failure. When the roll was called, 28 men were known to be dead, 120 wounded and 56 were still missing. The final death toll was 65, including Harry and two other local men, Charles Thorpe and William Pollard.

   
           
   
     
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