Harold Brocks CROSSFIELD
Rank: Corporal (as listed by the War Graves Commission. Regimental records lists as Lance Sergeant)
Number: 11304
Unit: 2nd Battalion BORDER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 1 July 1916
Age: 27
Cemetery: Dantzig Alley British Cemetery, Somme, France

Harold Crossfield is wrongly listed as Crosfield by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

He was the son of the late Samuel & Elizabeth Crossfield of 135 Stockport Road, Cheadle and had been employed by the Manchester Corporation Electricity Department. He had been born at Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester.

Harold originally enlisted, at Manchester, into "C" Company, 6th Battalion, Border Regiment, probably around September 1914. He saw action with them at Gallipoli during 1915, being mentioned in dispatches in the London Gazette of 28 January 1916.

On 20 April 1916, he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion and went to the Western Front, in France, on 23 May.

During the night of 30 June, the Battalion moved up from its reserve positions near the village of Morlancourt, to the front line trenches in front of Fricourt. An attack was scheduled for 7.30, the following morning, in what would become known as the first day of the Battle of the Somme. At the appointed hour, the whistles blew and Harold left the relative safety of the trenches. The Battalion quickly captured the enemy front line trench, which had been pounded for days by British artillery. Casualties were light even though the men had been subjected to machine gun fire from left and right. The enemy pulled back and regrouped in shell holes and communication trenches and poured heavy rifle fire onto the Borders, breaking up the attack. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting took place as the troops battled forward.

The battalion had attacked in four waves and, by 8.30, the first three waves had become mixed up as further machine gun fire opened up from a position within a small wood. A group led by 2nd Lieutenant Russell attacked this position across the open ground and silenced the gun. German troops were still active in a nearby trench, but the Borders slowly captured it throwing grenades to force the enemy further back. By the early afternoon, the area was relatively secure and the Battalion prepared for any counter attack and to be ready to support an over-lapping advance by 20th Battalion, Manchester Regiment.

Harold was one of 90 Borders killed. Another 246 had been wounded in the attack. It is not known exactly when or how Harold lost his life. However, the Battalion's War Diary (probably written when they were relieved from the front line on 3 July) comments "The casualties in the attack were not as heavy as they might have been owing firstly to the splendid way the wire had been cut by "T" Battery, Royal Horse Artillery and secondly to the fact that the advance was very close behind the artillery barrage the whole time. During the latter half of the attack, the Battalion was subjected to a heavy sprinkling of hostile shrapnel which in addition to rifle and machine gun fire caused the casualties mentioned."

(NB: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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