Henry Francis BOOTH
Rank: Gunner
Number: 72075
Unit: 176th Siege Battery ROYAL GARRISON ARTILLERY
Date of Death: 8 February 1917
Age: 33
Cemetery: Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, Vlamertinge, Belgium

Henry was the only surviving son of John and Julie Booth, although they also had two daughters, Edith and Louisa. The family originated from the north east with Edith and Louisa being born in Stockton whilst Henry was born in Newcastle. They had lived in the Stockport area for some considerable time; firstly at 41 Lancashire Hill and, later, at 61 Berlin Road, Edgeley.

Until he joined the army on 2 November 1915, Henry worked as a clerk at the cotton mill of T & J Leigh Ltd on Water Street in the Portwood area. He was assigned to the artillery, as many older men seem to have been. No doubt, it was thought that they would be less able to cope with the rigours of the trenches as infantrymen. His service papers still exist at the National Archives and these show him to have been tall for those days, standing at over 5’ 10”, with a 36” chest. He went overseas on 17 September 1916.

He had married Annie Davies on 29 November 1909 at St Mary’s Church, Cheadle and they lived at 160 Lowfield Road, Stockport. They had two children – Dorothy born on 22 November the following year and Arthur on 25 June 1913.

The Siege Batteries fired the heaviest weapons in the British arsenal and they were used to batter enemy positions. The officers commanding the gun emplacements would communicate with the Battery commander by telephone and, in turn, he would also receive orders from above by phone. The vital link in this was maintaining the contact by quickly repairing any breaks in the wire. This needed to be done on a regular basis as enemy shelling would break the wire. Often it was simply easier to run a new full length of cable.

These tasks were carried out by the battery’s telephonists and signallers and it was often the most dangerous job in the Battery as they had to leave the protection of their dug-outs to carry out repairs whilst they were under fire from the enemy. In early February, it appears that there had something of an artillery duel between Henry’s Battery and their opposite numbers across No Man’s Land, shelling each others positions on a regular basis. The Battery’s War Diary entry for 8 February concludes “Gunners Booth, Garratt and Gilbert (telephonists) killed laying wire.”  The three are now buried in adjacent graves.

A couple of months later, Henry’s personal effects were sent back home. They included letters, photographs, Bible and a diary as well as the mudane items of ordinary life – a comb, shaving brush, razor, cigarette holder, etc.

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