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Robert Halshaw was born in the final quarter of 1896.  His father was Robert Halshaw (b. 1867 in Great Harwood), a mule spinner by trade.  Robert (Snr)’s family moved to Holland Slack in Walton Le Dale in the 1870s and in 1888 he married Elizabeth Sharples (b. 1869 in Walton Le Dale). They had eleven children of whom 8 survived infancy: Ann Jane (b. 1889), John (b. 1891), Mary Edith (b. 1895), then Robert, then Ellen (b. 1899), Richard (b. 1901), Theresa (b. 1904) and finally Margaret (b. 1905).  By 1911, the family (Robert and Elizabeth and all the children except Ann Jane) were living at 74 School Lane, Bamber Bridge.  All the children of working age worked in Orr’s Mill, Robert (Jnr) being a weaver.

On 1 July 1915, Robert (Snr) enlisted with the Loyals and was given service no. 31382.  He lied about his age, claiming to be 40 years and 7 months old.  In fact he was 48.  He was 5’ 2½” tall and had a 36½” chest and weighed 125lbs.  The attestation form also says Robert had done 4 years as a volunteer with the Loyals.  He was initially posted to 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, but on 9 August 1915 he was transferred to Cheshire Regiment (1st Garrison Battalion) with new service number 29078, and he then served with the Labour Corps with service no. 343969.  In July 1917 he spent 10 days in hospital in Felixstowe suffering from spasmodic stricture of the oesophagus (inability to swallow properly).  He was discharged as no longer physically fit for military service on 28 August 1917 (aged 50).  But by this time, the War had claimed the lives of two of his sons.

His oldest son, John, was 13888 PTE. J. HALSHAW. L.N.LAN.R of 8th Battalion, killed near Arras on 21 May 1916.

Robert (Jnr) must have signed up at more or less the same time as his brother John – September 1914 – and he was assigned service number 17534 and he was posted to 10th Battalion.  The Battalion was part of 112th Brigade of 37th Division.  The Battalion arrived in France on the night of 31 July – 1 August 1915.  37th Division was not engaged in any major operations during the autumn, winter and early spring, being in relatively quiet parts of the front.  Even in July 1916, at the start of the Battle of the Somme, the Division was largely in reserve.  However, they were called into action at Contalmaison on 11 July, by which time the fighting was heavy and progress difficult.  Typically, on one occasion, two brigades were ordered to attack, but then the order was cancelled but not in time to prevent the attack going ahead.  Without appropriate support, casualties were heavy.  An attack on the village of Pozières on 15-18 July also failed, again with heavy casualties, although the village was finally taken by the Australians on 25 July.  On 6 August, the 112th Brigade took over the front line, 10 Bn occupying trenches to the east of Bazentin-Le-Petit.

From the Regimental History:

At 2am on the morning of 11th August “the turn of 10Bn came.  Immediately on the tail of a heavy bombardment, ‘C’ Company sprang out of our trench on the right of the barrier and dashed along the top of the Bosche trench, hurling down bombs on its occupants. ‘A’ Company followed, and passing ‘C’ Company pushed on, sprang down into the trench and bayoneted the defenders, clearing the trench up to the Martinpuich road.  A building party then put up a barricade fifty yards from the road, which was completed by 2.50am.  At 7am, ‘B’ Company took over the 300 yards of trench won by ‘C’ and ‘A’, and later a company of the 9 North Staffs came up and consolidated the gain.  The casualties were: killed, one officer and 20 other ranks; wounded, 3 officers and 77 other ranks; of the wounded 3 men died later.”

CWGC confirms that 30 officers and men from 10Bn lost their lives on 11-12 August 1916.

Robert Halshaw, aged 19, was among the dead.  His body was never recovered. The following notice was placed in a local newspaper;halshaw-robert

Rank:  Private
Service No:  17534
Date of Death:  11/08/1916
Regiment/Service:  The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 10th Bn.
Panel Reference:  Pier and Face 11 A.

Bill Brierley
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