Harry Percy FOWLER
Rank: Private
Number: 49508
Unit: 20th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 1 October 1917
Age: 29
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Harry originated from Cheadle Hulme but was living at 197 Horton Road, Rusholme, Manchester when he enlisted at Manchester into the fifth of the "Pals" battalions. When the 1901 Census was taken, 12 year old Harry was living with his parents, Charles and Annie, and his brother and three sisters in "two up, two down" accommodation at 105 Hulme Hall Road. He is probably the Harry Fowler recorded as getting married in the Stockport area in the late summer of 1911.

He was not an original member of the 20th Battalion and will have gone on active service to replace those killed during the offensives of the summer and early autumn of 1916. By the time he joined, it was no longer a Battalion comprised solely of men from the Manchester area.

On 1 October, Harry was serving with the machine gun section, holding positions near Polygon Wood in the Ypres salient of Belgium. These trenches had been captured a few days before, by Australian troops. At 5am, a very heavy enemy artillery barrage fell on the trenches. The barrage hit some 1500 yards of the front line held by the Manchesters and going back some 1000 yards to the reserve positions. At 5.30, the enemy attacked, in three waves, towards the right of the Battalion position. Each wave was about 100 men. The advancing troops were very slowed up by the mud. This allowed successful artillery and rifle fire to be brought on them and force them back. Most of the Germans retreated to their own line, but some took shelter in shell holes in No Man's Land and sniped at the Battalion. One killed the Manchesters' Commanding Officer, Lt Colonel D Turnbull, who was doing his rounds of the front line at 7.15.

The Germans kept up an artillery barrage throughout the morning. Around midday, they raised the red Cross flag and, under its protection, sent out stretcher parties to collect the dead and wounded. Harry was reported to have been killed by an artillery shell, one of 22 members of the Battalion to die that day.

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

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