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Harold Prescott Makin was born in Sutton, St Helens in 1896 and was the son of William and Jane Makin. The 1901 census lists the family at 103 Junction Lane, Sutton and shows that he had three siblings; two older brothers Alfred and George William, and a younger sister named Elizabeth.

By the time of the 1911 census Harold was 15 years old and was living with his 37 year old widowed mother and his sister at his maternal grandmother’s house at 61 Peckers Hill Road, St Helens. Harold was employed as a railway clerk.

Just one month after the declaration of War, 4th September 1914, he enlisted in the Army at St. Helens and joined the 10th (Service) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 12976. He was 19 years old, single, still living with his mother and in the intervening years appears to have been employed as a moulder.

At the medical examination upon enlistment the records show he stood 5ft 7in tall and weighed 125lbs with a 36in chest.

Shortly after Harold enlisted his mother remarried, becoming Mrs Jane Latham, and moved to 225, Marshall’s Cross Road, Green End, St. Helens.

Despite having no previous military service Harold was obviously extremely capable. Whilst they were still training in the UK on 1st March 1915 he was appointed Lance Corporal and was promoted to Corporal on 5th June the same year. He sailed to France with the bulk of 10th Battalion men on 31st July 1915 and was placed into ‘C’ Company.

In September 1915 he spent 5 days out of the line recovering from influenza, and a re-occurrence of the same saw him out of action again in February 1916.

On 22nd May 1916 he was appointed Lance Serjeant and was transferred across to ‘D’ Company where he was promoted to Serjeant on 17th July 1916.

Between 21st August and 7th September a bout of enterocolitis (inflammation of both the small intestine and the colon) forced another stay in hospital for Harold and that wouldn’t be the last time he fell ill in France – between 8th December 1916 and 1st January 1917 he was back on the wards now with tonsillitis. During this period his mother wrote to the Army for information;

225 Marshalls Cross Road, St. Helens, Lancashire.
2nd Jan (1917)

Dear Sir,

Will you be kind to forward me any information respecting my son Sergt. H. P. Makin No 12976 D Coy 10 Batt Loyal North Lancs, British Expeditionary Force, France. I sent him a registered letter on the 14 Dec and it has come back registered with ‘Hospital’ on, do you think he is ill or wounded? Will you be kind enough to let me know if possible by return.

Oblige, J Latham.

Serjeant Harold Prescott Makin was posted as wounded and missing on 11th April 1917, his death later presumed to have happened on or since that date. He was 21 years old and had served two years 220 days in the Army.

The Battalion War Diary records;

Arras – 10th / 11th April 1917

During the night, orders were received that the L.N.Lancs were to continue the advance and attack at 05:00hrs going through East Lancs and attacking the trenches, having as our objective the ‘Green Line’ and in particular the wood (Tilloy).

Arras – 11th April 1917 – 05:00hrs

The Battalion having previously got into position for such advance, almost immediately came into full view of the enemy and was met with very heavy machine gun and shell fire.

Arras – 11th April 1917 – 05:30hrs

We received orders not to advance until barrage opened. By this time, we had carried by assault, the enemy trench in front (east of Sunken Road) and were establishing ourselves in shell holes 100 yards further east.

It was at this time that Captain Peskett, 2nd Lieutenant Ibbotson and  2nd Lieutenant Goodman were killed.

During this assault, we suffered very heavy casualties and were being enfiladed from Monchy Le Preux. The right flank, perceiving that they were in the air and appreciating the fact that if it remained as such, there was a likelihood of their being outflanked, boldly determined to risk all and assaulted a small trench running southwards from Cambrai Road in the direction of Guemappe and about 30 yards east of Sunken road before mentioned.

A tank apparently also appreciating the situation in a like manner, came to their aid.

On obtaining possession of the trench, Corporal Leonard and Lance Corporal R. Dinwoodie and six men were all that was left. These eight men boldly bombed along the trench southward killing more than a dozen Bosche, taking three prisoners and found themselves in complete possession. To their almost surprise, seven Bosche officers miraculously appeared apparently from nowhere. This was not a time to stand on ceremony, whereupon the officers suffered the same fate as their men. Two machine guns were captured in this gallant assault, but as the new garrison were so weak in numbers and fearing that they might eventually be in their turn evicted, they blew them up.

These men retained possession of this trench as did also Captain Gravett, ably assisted by Second Lieutenant Deacon (being the only two officers now left) and CSM Webster with sixty men, made themselves masters of the situation of the corresponding trench running northwards from the Cambrai Road. Here the garrison remained throughout the day, although there were signs of the enemy massing for a counter attack from the south.

It was about this time that Second Lieutenant Parker died after being badly wounded.

The Commanding Officer and Adjutant, having collected enroute stragglers of all Battalions to the number of about fifty, arrived on the scene. By this time, and with the assistance of the these reinforcements, Captain Gravett was the complete master of the situation. From this time onwards, reinforcements of officers and men from other Battalions kept arriving.

Arras – 11th April 1917 – 13:50hrs

The Commanding Officer sent in a report to the General informing him that the situation had improved considerably and he had made plans for bombing parties to proceed along both sides the Cambrai Road and to attack the enemy trench after nightfall, which was about 300 yards in front of our line, as it was not deemed advisable at the moment to advance further, knowing full well that we were well in advance of all troops on our right and left, besides which in our present position we had command of a good field of view.

During this period Second Lieutenant Deacon received two wounds, but would not desert his Captain or his men.

About three hours after entering the trench, some of the 3rd Dragoon Guards, acting as Infantry, came up on their left. This gave them some breathing space.

During this time men of the East Lancs and 10th L.N.Lancs oozed from shell holes and thickened the line of fire to our front line and could also enfilade the enemy on our right where the troops on that flank would advance further.

Arras – 11th April 1917 – 17:00hrs

We received orders that we would be relieved at 18:30hrs and immediately informed Captain Gravett to hold himself in readiness to be relieved. This relief was not completed until 01:00hrs. The men being in a very exhausted condition withdrew to Tilloy where we spent the remainder of the night.

Tilloy Wood – 12th April 1917 – 08:00hrs

Roll Call. Only a few of the brave fellows left. Our loses were estimated at 13 Officers and 286 men. That is over 60% of our fighting strength.

Harold’s mother took receipt of her late son’s effects comprising two photographs, and later received the following letter from Captain James Arthur Gravett

30th July 1917

Dear Mrs Latham,

I am very sorry I have not answered your letter before, but we have been in the fighting line and have had no time. The last I saw of your son was on the early morning of the 11th of April near Monchy le-preux, east of Arras. He was very badly wounded in the arm and back but he was conscious and he recognised me and asked me if I could get him a stretcher as soon as possible. Two stretcher bearers came up and took him towards the aid post. I am afraid they must have been all killed as no further news has been heard of the stretcher bearers and they are both reported missing. I am very sorry indeed to tell you this but I can assure you that there is no hope at all. If he had reached an aid post or dressing station we should have heard.

When I saw him lying wounded in a roadway he was right in the front of his platoon and it will be some consolation to you to know that he did his duty extraordinarily well both in action and also when out of the line. I recommended him to the Colonel for gallantry but awards are very seldom given to men who are casualties and we have heard nothing further.

He was simply a splendid fellow and I sympathise most deeply with you in your great loss.

Yours Sincerely,

J.A. Gravett, Capt. O.C. D Coy

Harold Prescott Makin is remembered on the Arras Memorial and, in the UK, on the All Saints War Memorial at Sutton.

Rank: Serjeant
Service No: 12976
Date of Death: 11/04/1917
Age: 21
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 10th Bn.

Paul McCormick
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