Harold CASTLE
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 41868
Unit: 10th/11th Battalion HIGHLAND LIGHT INFANTRY (on memorial as Royal Scots Fusilier)
Date of Death: 24 April 1917
Age: 21
Cemetery: Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Harold's inscription on the South Reddish War Memorial indicates service with the Royal Scots Fusiliers. However, his first Regiment was the Royal Scots - an entirely separate Regiment and easily confused. He was serving with the Highland Light Infantry when he was killed.

He was the youngest surviving child of Richard and Annie Castle who, in 1901, were living at 11 Fountain Street, Reddish. The older children were Bertha (then 18), Frederick (14), Leonard (13), Edith (10) and Ernest (8). Harold was then 5.

His original Royal Scots service number, 2556, is an early one suggesting he enlisted shortly after war was declared in August 1914. He will have been transferred to the Light Infantry probably after returning to duty following a lengthy absence due to wounds or illness. Such transfers were commonplace in the later years of the war.

Allied forces launched a large scale attack, on 9 April, in the sector around the French town of Arras. On the 23rd, a further assault was ordered which was later officially called the Second Battle of the Scarpe (after the river). The Light Infantry was not in the firing line that day but, on the morning of the 24th, Harold and his comrades were in the front line south of the road from Arras to Cambrai, along  with the other battalions of 15th Division. The HLI was scheduled to lead the Divisional attack.

Next to them  was 29th Division and they were heavily counter-attacked and forced back, just as the Highland Light Infantry was about to advance. In consequence, the British artillery barrage, that was intended to support the attack, was ordered to be delayed for 30 minutes. But the news of the delay did not reach the Light Infantry with tragic results. At the original "zero hour", 6pm, the Light Infantry advanced. Very shortly afterwards, the British barrage opened on No Man's Land, catching the men in the open. Within minutes, there were heavy losses from this "friendly fire". Just north of the Cambrai road, the men now came under enfilade fire from the right, from buildings known as Cavalry Farm (just outside the village of  Guemappe). They had no option but to halt and take cover. Later in the day, they withdrew and other units continued the attack over the next two days.

Official records show only eight killed on the day of the attack, yet thirty-five the day before. It is probable that, in the chaos of battle, there was an understandable clerical error and the true number of deaths was 43. Many more will have been wounded. Harold's body was never recovered and identified and he is now commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at nearby Arras.

   
           
   
     
© 2006. Design and Layout are the property of Ihelm Enterprises Limited and cannot be reproduced without express permission.
 
Enter Search Phrase Here:(search may take up to 30 seconds) 
 
Close Search Window