Henry CHESTER
Rank: Private
Number: 245505
Unit: 1/10th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 20 October 1918
Age: 23
Cemetery: Belle Vue British Cemetery, Briastre, Nord, France

In the closing months of 1892, Walter Chester and Beatrice Carter married in a civil ceremony registered at Stockport. They are known to have had two sons - Henry, born in about 1896 and Arthur born in 1900. When the Census was taken in 1901, they were living at 3 Heawood Street, Stockport and later moved to 9H Mersey View, Lark Hill in Edgeley.

Nothing is known of Henry's life until he joined the army. He was not a particularly early volunteer and his enlistment may have been as a conscript sometime after the middle of 1916. He was assigned to the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry and given the service number of 4105. This was a cavalry unit of the Territorial Force. He is known to have served abroad with the Yeomanry but it is thought that he was quickly transferred to an infantry battalion.

His above six-digit number is one associated with the 5th Battalion and this was probably the 2/5th Battalion. The unit was disbanded in France in July 1918 and this was, probably , when Henry was transferred to the 1/10th.

Henry would be one of 20 men from his Battalion who were killed on 20 October. They had moved into position near Briastre during the night of 19/20th and were ready by 1am. Zero hour was set for an hour later. In Henry's sector, 126th Brigade would attack with 10th Manchesters on the left and 5th East Lancashires on the right and the men would advance in four waves. Their objective was a railway cutting running south from Solesme. It was a very strong German defensive system with deep dugouts. A second objective was some high ground running parallel with the railway on its far side. "A" and "C" Companies were given the task of capturing the cutting. "B" would then reinforce them and occupy the cutting. "D" would leapfrog and occupy a position a little further on. Other units would then overlap and take the high ground.

Gibbon's History of 42nd Division records that the attack went well. "Encountering wire west of the railway, Lance-Corporal Revell rushed forward and, though the wire was still under our own barrage, he cut a gap through which the section passed. A little later, Revell charged a machine gun post and bayoneted the crew." As the men attacked the German positions in the actual cutting, they came under machine gun fire and there was fierce hand-to-hand fighting but the objective was secured to schedule. As the Battalion pushed on, the History of the Division records other instances of "daring, resource and initiative".

"Sergeant S R Lees, in command of a platoon of the 10th Manchesters engaged in clearing the railway cutting, worked round to the rear of a crater strongly held by machine gun, which they attacked and captured. He then pushed on to Solesmes, outside the divisional boundary, accounting for a number of the enemy on the way and taking their machine guns and got in touch with the 62nd Division. This platoon cleared more than 1000 yards of railway. Corporal W Martin, with two men...came upon a body of nearly fifty of the enemy. The three opened fire and shot several Germans, then charged with the bayonet, killed and wounded others and put the remainder to flight...."

The Cemetery where Henry is buried is near the site of a position known to the British as Belle Vue Farm. It was, almost certainly, named by the Manchesters after the amusement park and zoo in the city.

   
           
   
     
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