Private 53301 Harry Hunter

Hunter Harry 96 379x600
Photograph courtesy of Harry's niece, Isobel Byrne.

Killed in Action on Wednesday, 27th March 1918, age 21.
Commemorated on Panel 26 and 27 of Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France.

2nd Bn., West Yorkshire Regt. (Prince of Wales Own). 23rd Brigade of 8th Division.

Son of Edward and Harriett Hunter, of 255, Dudley Rd., Tividale, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the St. Augustine's Memorial.
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/1583119/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
5 Baca Terrace, Horseley Heath, Tipton, Staffs.
Edward Hunter (28, Boilermaker Puncher, born Tipton), his wife Mary Harriett (28, born Rowley), and their 3 children: Thomas (6, born Tipton), Nellie (4, born Tipton), and Harry (2, born Tipton).

1911 Census
Dudley Road, Tividale, Tipton, Staffs.
Edward Hunter (45, Iron Puncher, born Tipton), his wife Mary Harriett ( 38, born Rowley), and their 6 surviving children of 7: Thomas Edward (16, Bricklayer's Labourer, born Tipton), Nellie Sophie (14, born Tipton), Harry (12, School, born Tipton), Maggie (9, School, born Tipton), Randle George (6, School, born Darlaston), and Daisy Leah (4, School, born Tipton). An eighth child, Fred, was born in 1915.

Personal Data

An article in the Bugle of 19th April 2013 reported that Harry's niece believed that Harry was trained as a bomber, and that he was killed by the premature explosion of a grenade, this is uncorroborated. Harry's name appears on the Roll of Honour for Tividale Ward, with his address as 258 Dudley Road, Tividale.

Harry's eldest brother, Thomas, was in the 1st North Midlands Field Company of the Royal Engineers, attached to the 46th Division. Thomas survived the war, and died in the late 1950s.

After Harry's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £3/2/6d (3 pounds, 2 shillings and 6 pence), this was paid to his father, Edward, in August 1919. His War Gratuity was £6/0/0d (6 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his father in August 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Harry had enlisted in October 1916.

Action resulting in his death

The German Spring Offensive had commenced on 21st March 1918, and forced the Allied front line back, but without gaining a strategic breakthrough. On the 26th March, the 3rd Army had fallen back along the line of the Somme leaving the northern flank of Gough's 5th Army exposed. This was the location of Harry Hunter and his 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment.

Strong German forces exploited this gap, crossed the Somme, and infiltrated the Allied line. A confused series of vicious actions followed involving six British Divisions who were attacked from the front, flank and rear by eleven German Divisions. Rosieres, temporarily held firm, but over the next week the Allied line in this area retreated a further 5 miles westwards towards Amiens.

86 men of the 2nd West Yorkshires lost their lives in the last week of March 1918. Harry Hunter was killed in action on 27th March; he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial.

For more detail, the following extract is from the Regimental History 'West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1914-1918' by Everard Wyrall

The Battle of Rosieres, 26th - 27th March 1918.
At 2 a.m. on the 26th March the 2nd West Yorkshires had formed an outpost line at, and about, Deniecourt. Here they set to work to construct whatever defences were possible, though it was anticipated that the enemy would soon put in a appearance. About 10 a.m. the battalion received an order to "withdraw immediately" to Rosieres, and the Diary makes the startling announcement that the "receipt of this (order) coincided with the arrival of the enemy". A tough fight ensued but the men fought well and in good order, company by company, the withdrawal beginning from the left, the remnants of the companies got clear of their dangerous positions and reached Rosieres. Here they hastily dug in, holding a line up to the railway, with the 2nd Middlesex on their right and the 2nd Field Company R.E., on their left. Apparently the remainder of the day passed without any abnormal incident happening on the battalion front, and the records state "no action at night".

At nightfall on 26th, however, a very dangerous gap existed between the left of the Fifth Army and the right of the Third Army on the Somme. The former was on the southern bank of the river at Fraissy, whilst the latter was at Cerisy. The enemy was not slow in taking advantage of the opening thus afforded and on the morning of the 27th penetrated the gap, compelling the left of the Fifth Army to fall back again.

About 2 p.m. a machine gun officer arrived at Battalion Headquarters of the 2nd West Yorkshires and reported that all troops on the left of the battalion were retiring. The sight of troops moving back through Rosieres confirmed this report and "B" Company of the West Yorkshires, then in reserve, and Battalion Headquarters were ordered to move to the railway west of the station. In half-an-hour a forward movement on the flank was in progress. Brigade Headquarters being then north, towards Vauvillers. So far as the 8th Division was concerned the position on the left flank was thus restored and, although during the evening the enemy's bombers attempted to turn the left flank of the 2nd West Yorkshires, they were beaten off and Rosieres remained secure for the night of the 27/28th, the 50th Division being in position along the line of the light railway south-east of the village.

On the night of the 27th March the British line south of the Somme formed a salient from Hamel, just east of Harbinnieres-Rosieres- Bouchoir-Anvillers.

It is a pity that the Diary of the 2nd West Yorkshires is so brief, for it is very evident that the battalion saw hard fighting and most gallantly held the enemy off, adding thereby to the glorious records of the Regiment. Throughout the war the British soldier never fought better than when in a tight corner.

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