Herbert’s death a month after the end of hostilities was caused by the War as directly as those killed fighting in it and was just as tragic.
He had been born locally in 1880, the son of Samuel and Clara. The 1901 Census records the family living at 308 London Road, Hazel Grove. Samuel, then 48, worked as a carpenter. His two sons George (24) and Herbert (21) both worked as house painters. Samuel and Clara also had four daughters – Mary (25 and a cotton weaver), Gertrude (19, worked in a cotton mill), Alice (15, apprentice to a milliner) and Kate (5).
In the late spring of 1911, Herbert married Lydia Willets. They set up home at Hazel Street and would have two children together.
Herbert’s medal entitlement records (on-line at the National Archives) show he had a varied military service during the war. He originally joined the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment. His service number, 7516, indicates this was shortly after war was declared. At some point, probably after being wounded or otherwise away from his unit due to sickness, he was transferred to the Manchester Regiment. His service number there, 245247, suggests this was after the beginning of 1917 (when six-digit numbers were introduced) and that he was assigned to the 1/5th Battalion. A further transfer led to a move to the North Lancashires.
Whilst with the Lancashires, he was severely wounded and had to have a leg amputated whilst in a military hospital in France. Returning to “Blighty”, he spent time in Stepping Hill Hospital and was later transferred to the Victoria Hospital in Sheffield. In the normal course of events, Herbert would be discharged from the army once he had recovered physically but, in the meantime, he had been removed from the fighting strength of his Battalion and transferred to the Regimental Depot unit
Not surprisingly, Herbert was depressed about his condition and, no doubt, his prospects for the future. To try and help his recovery, he was given a day’s leave from hospital and he returned home on Sunday 15 December. In the late afternoon, the family was having tea. Herbert seemed to be restless and eventually got up from the table and went out to the back yard. A little later, they heard a noise and, thinking he might be ill, his brother-in-law, David Brunt, went to see if he was alright. Mr Brunt found Herbert lying with his throat cut and a razor by his side. He was dead.
An inquest on Tuesday the 17th recorded a verdict of “suicide whilst of unsound mind”.
Herbert’s grave is maintained by the War Graves Commission and his name is, rightly, included in its Debt of Honour register. Lydia died in 1958 and is buried with him.