Private 33536 Harry Egginton

Killed in Action on Sunday, 2nd December 1917, age 35.
Commemorated on Panel 85 to 86 of Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

11th Bn., Border Regiment. 97th Brigade of 32nd Division.
Formerly SR/9423 Royal Garrison Artillery.

Born: Princes End, Tipton, Enlisted: Wolverhampton, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, 4th January 1917.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial, but commemorated on the Manders Brothers Memorial, Wightwick Manor.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1631073/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Harry Egginton registered June quarter 1882 in Dudley.

1891 Census
18 Shepherd Street, Wolverhampton.
John Egginton (41, Filesmith, born Willenhall), his wife Sarah (43, born Willenhall), and their 6 children: Martha E. (18, Shop Assistant, born Bilston), William T. (16, Telegraph Messenger, born Wolverhampton), Florence (11, born Willenhall), Harry (8, born Tipton), Annie (6, born Wolverhampton), and George H. (3, born Wolverhampton).

1901 Census
20 Upper Vauxhall, Wolverhampton.
John Egginton (51, Filesmith, born Willenhall), his wife Sarah (53, born Willenhall), and 5 of their children: William T. (26, Hardware Packer, born Wolverhampton), Florence (22, Shop Assistant, born Willenhall), Harry (18, Shop Assistant, born Tipton), George H. (13, Hardware Packer, born Wolverhampton), and Ada D. (9, born Wolverhampton).

1911 Census
38 Sherwood Street, Wolverhampton.
Boarding with Thomas George and Edith Annie Wootton was:
Harry Egginton (29, Boarder, Clerk in Colour Works, born Princes End, Tipton).

Marriage of Harry Egginton and Elsie Brommage registered September quarter 1916 in Wolverhampton. This was on 17th August 1916, just a week before Harry was mobilised. Elsie (nee Burgess) had married Horace Brommage in late 1911, but Horace died in 1913. They had a daughter, Kathleen, born in 1912, she became Harry's step-daughter. The unfortunate girl had lost her natural father and step-father by the time she was 5 years old.

Personal Data

Harry attested at Wolverhampton on 3rd November 1915, and was immediately posted to the Reserves. This suggests his attestation was under the ‘Derby Scheme’ which allowed men to agree to ‘join up’ but be mobilised at a future date. At the time of attestation, Harry lived at 28 Cannock Road, Wolverhampton, and had previously served with the Territorial Army branch of the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was 33 years of age and employed as a Varnish Maker, presumably at Mander Brothers as he appears on their War Memorial.

Harry was mobilised on 22nd August 1916, and joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in Great Yarmouth. He was 34 years and 109 days old, 5 feet 9½ inches tall with a 38-inch chest, and weighed 150 pounds. His physical development was noted as ‘Good’, and his religion as Church of England. His next of kin was his wife, Mrs Elsie Egginton, and their address was 14 Mostyn Street, Wolverhampton, where Elsie had been living with her mother and step-father at the time of the 1911 Census.

Harry was posted as a Gunner in September 1916, but was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion Infantry on 24th November 1916. Harry spent Christmas 1916 presumably with his wife by overstaying his leave, he was charged with overstaying his leave by 6 days from 21st to 27th December 1916, probably the final time he saw his wife and step-daughter. He was given 10 days ‘Confined to Barracks’.

It was as an infantryman that he landed in Boulogne on 4th January 1917. On the next day he arrived at the 25th Infantry Base Depot, Etaples, and was posted to the Reserve Battalion of the Border Regiment, then to their 11th Battalion on the 7th January.

The final entry on his records was that he was reported missing on 2 December 1917, and “regarded for Official Purposes as having died on or since 2/12/17”.

After Harry's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £8/2/2d (8 pounds, 2 shillings and 2 pence); this was paid to his widow, Elsie, in November 1918. His War Gratuity was £5/0/0d (5 pounds exactly), this was also paid to Elsie in December 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Harry had enlisted in September 1916.

Action resulting in his death

At the end of the war, the Battles Nomenclature Committee determined the names and dates of the major actions, this suggested start and end dates that perhaps were not so visible at the time. The Third Battle of Ypres began on the 31st July 1917 with the Battle of Pilkem, and ended on 10th November as the 9th phase, the Second Battle of Passchendaele, concluded.

On 10th November, the Canadians had the village (or ruins) of Passchendaele in their possession, extending northwards to include ‘Vindictive Crossroads’. This gave possession of the Passchendaele Ridge to the Allies, giving some observation over the German positions on the reverse slope, also denying the Germans observation over the slope down towards Ypres. Activities did not cease on this date; every day saw numbers of men killed as artillery and sniping never stopped.

A 10th phase was planned to extend our possession of the Ridge just 400 yards to the north to encompass Hill 52 and give observation towards Roulers which was a significant German hub. The name Hill 52 suggests more than it is, as the surrounding land is no less that 40-45 meters in height, so the difference is not great, and difficult to spot today without a map and GPS.

The attack was downgraded to the status of ‘local operation’ and is now almost forgotten except for the work of Dr. Michael Lo Cicero and his superb book ‘A Moonlight Massacre – The Night Operation on the Passchendaele Ridge’.

The attack took place on the night of 1st - 2nd December and was undertaken by the 8th and 32nd Divisions, the latter including 11th Border Regiment with Harry Egginton. Night attacks were comparatively unusual, as attacks in darkness make direction and coordination difficult. The night of 1st - 2nd December had snow and moonlight, making the attackers quite visible to the defenders.

In summary, 32nd Division took Hill 52 but were unable to hold it. All gains were successfully counter-attacked by the Germans by 4.15pm. Essentially the 32nd Division attack was a failure. 8th Division also gained their objectives but were driven out, also essentially a failure.

It was not possible to continue, as there had been no reserves allocated to this attack, and so troops were ordered to consolidate at their original positions.

The War Diary for the 11th Border Regiment for 2nd December 1917 records:
“The Battalion made a night attack on the German positions south of Westroosebeek in conjunction with the remaining units of the 97th Infantry Brigade and 2 units of the 96th Infantry Brigade. Zero hour 1.55am. The battalion took its objectives but the two leapfrogging Companies fell back before dawn onto subsidiary objectives which were held all day until the enemy launched a counter attack at 4.30pm and the battalion fell back onto the old line.”

This ultimately futile operation had cost 32nd Division 1033 casualties, and 8th Division 624. 11th Border Regiment had 90 officers and men killed on the 2nd with another 9 dying on the subsequent days. Harry Egginton lost his life on the 2nd December. Like most of his comrades killed that day, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, no more than a mile from where he fell.

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