The Garners lived at 12 Bannister Street, in the Higher Hillgate area of Stockport. There were seven children, including Harriett and sally. All five brothers would serve during the War – William with the Royal Engineers and Benjamin, George and Henry with the Royal Field Artillery. Only Harold fought with the infantry.
He worked as “night doffer” for Smith Ltd on Higher Hillgate. A “doffer” was a worker in a cotton mill who would replace the full bobbins of cotton with empty ones. He was engaged to Florrie Littllewood who lived nearby on Edward Street. The 9th Battalion was raised in August 1914 and Harold will have undertaken his training at Winchester, going overseas in May 1915. He was reported to have been home on leave shortly before he was killed.
During the summer of 1915, the French Commander of Allied forces was determined to break through the German lines in France before the onset of winter. Plans were laid for the War’s first “Big Push” which would take place around the mining area of Loos. Secondary attacks would also take place elsewhere designed to keep German forces pinned down and unable to go to the aid of their comrades. One of the attacks would be on Bellewaarde, just outside the Belgian town of Ypres (now Ieper), some 50 kilometres north of the main battle area.
Harold and his comrades would be in support of the 9th Battalion, Rifle Brigade which would lead the assault in their immediate sector. Within minutes of the Rifle Brigade “going over the top”, they were calling for assistance and four platoons of the Rifle Corps were sent forward. This was at 5.25am. Half an hour later, there was a call for specialist grenade throwers and 20 were sent, with plenty of supplies.
At 7pm, reports started to be received that the Rifle Brigade men, who had originally advanced successfully, were now being forced back and a full company of KRRC men (about 240) moved up to support them and, if necessary, to lead a counter-attack on the Germans. A second company was sent forward at about 7.30.
However, by 8.30, it was clear that the attack had failed. The men had been driven out of the German trenches and were trying to make their way back across No Man’s Land. Many would have to take cover in shell holes until they could crawl back under cover of darkness. At 9.30, orders were received to stand fast on the original British trench line and prepare in case the Germans followed up with an attack of their own.