John Eaton, a hat planker, and Selina Schofield married at St Mary's Church, Stockport in the opening months of 1882. By 1901, when the Census was taken, they were living at 91 Hempshaw Lane and had five children - of whom 4 year old Harry was the youngest. His older siblings were James (then 18), Margaret (15), John (12) and Sarah (6). Another brother, Willie, was born in the early 1900s and would be the only one of the three boys not to serve during the War.
When he left school, Harry also went to work in the hatting industry and was serving an apprenticeship with J Woodroow & Sons Ltd, Adswood Road, until he enlisted into the army in February 1915. The family home was now at Jennings Street, Edgeley (and later at 15 Heaton Mersey View, Larkhill Road). After finishing his army training, he went overseas on 14 July and will have seen his first major action at the Battle of Loos at the end of September.
The 9th Battalion did not take part in the attacks that formed the opening of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 and had a fairly quiet few days near the front line. However, on the 6th, they received orders to attack positions still held by the Germans around the village of Ovillers. The Battalion's War Diary notes "The position is a very strong one and has been attacked without success by very large forces...."
The Diary entry for the 7th records the events that led to Harry's early death. "Our bombardment commenced and became intense at 5.30am at which time the Coys [Companies] took up their positions in the front line ready for the assault. A on left, D on right ...to form the first line and to be followed immediately by B & C Coys respectively. The enemy retaliated almost as soon as our bombardment commenced & our trenches were heavily shelled by guns of big calibre. There were no dug-outs available and our casualties were very heavy. C Coy suffered most heavily being reduced to about 40. It was then decided that C Coy should go over with D. At 8.30am the time fixed for the assault, A & D & the remainder of C left our trenches.
A Coy was decimated by M G [machine gun) fire & the same fate met 2 platoons of B which followed. The remaining platoons of B Coy were ordered to remain in the trench as it was seen to be useless to send them across at the same place. D and C on the left were more successful & although greatly weakened managed to reach the German trenches which they carried by assault. The enemy's fire and support trenches were captured & consolidated. Two MGs were put out of action & 50 prisoners were captured. Continual bombing attacks were beaten off with loss to the enemy. About 5.30pm the remaining platoons of B Coy managed to get across and brought with them a large supply of bombs. It was raining heavily during the day."