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Herbert Smalley, born in Lostock Hall on 11 October 1892, was the son of John Smalley (b. 1865 in Penwortham, a locomotive engine driver) and Elizabeth Ann (née Ratcliffe, b. 1861 in Preston). Herbert had an older sister, Mary Ethel b. 1891 who died before her first birthday, and three younger siblings: Cecil b. 1897, Ivy Maria b. 1898 and Harold b. 1900. In 1911, the family lived in Dilworth Street, Lostock Hall, at which time Herbert was working in the mill as a cotton tuber but by the time he enlisted in September 1914 he had started working as a locomotive engine cleaner and the family had moved to Hoghton Street, Lostock Hall.

Herbert enlisted 1 September 1914, aged 21yrs 11mths, joining 7Bn L.N.LAN.R. He was 5’8” tall, weighed 129lbs, had dark hair, dark eyes, and 36” chest. He is not listed in databases of the “Preston Pals” but he was recruited at the same time to the same battalion. The photograph shows Preston men recruited to the 7Bn marching down the ramp towards Preston railway station on their way to Tidworth Barracks to commence training in September 1914.


Herbert remained in training until July 1915, qualifying as a machine gunner. During training, in March 1915, he was found to be absent without leave and confined to barracks for 3 days. With the battalion at full strength (30 officers and 900 other ranks), they left for France on 16 July 1915. Initially, the battalion was engaged in training and preparation for trench warfare and were in reserve during the Battle of Loos in September. Throughout the rest of the year and the first half of 1916, the battalion was shunted around the front, eventually ending up between Albert and La Boisselle for the opening of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. From 1-7 July, with just one day’s rest, the Battalion was engaged in the intense fighting of the Battle but the hoped-for breakthrough failed to occur. After another brief rest, on 23 July the battalion was ordered into the attack again along the salient from High Wood through Delville Wood to Guillemont in an attempt to dislodge the Germans from their dominant position. The attack was a failure and a very costly one: 11 officers and 290 men were killed wounded or missing, including Herbert Smalley.

Herbert’s service record says he was missing presumed dead on or after 23rd July 1916, but his body must have been found some time later, as he now has a grave at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery.


Photo taken by Janet Davis, July 2016

Following his death, Herbert’s medals and effects totalling £4 6s 3d were returned to his father, who also received the War Gratuity of £8 10s.

Rank: Private
Service No: 12484
Date of Death: 23/07/1916
Regiment: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 7th Bn.
Grave Reference: VI. H. 28.

Bill Brierley
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