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Henry Thompson was born at 205 New Hall Lane in Preston and was baptised on the 23rd October 1892 in St. Matthew`s Church in the town the son of William and Jane Thompson (nee Sowerbutts). His parents who were both from Preston had married in the same church on the 6th December 1888 and Henry was one of five children born to the couple, the others being; James (1890), Thomas (1894), William (1897) and Elizabeth Ellen (1900).

The family`s home address in 1901 was 265 New Hall Lane where Henry`s father was employed in one of the local cotton mills as a `tape sizer`. Henry received his education at St. Matthew`s School, leaving on the 19th January 1906 to go into full time work as an office boy.

When the 1911 Census was taken William and his family were still resident in New Hall Lane where his father continued to be employed as a tape sizer. Henry was now working as a clerk for yarn agents, Messrs. E. Catterall & Sons in Preston while elder brother James was a `wireman` for the G.P.O. Henry`s two younger brothers also had jobs, Thomas was working in a cloth warehouse and William was an office boy.

On the 24th October 1914 Henry enlisted into the 4th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment agreeing to serve a term of four years. He was allotted his original service number of 3015 which would later become 200858 when the TF was renumbered in January 1917. He confirmed his home address as 256 New Hall Lane in Preston and his occupation as a book keeper employed by Messrs. E. Catterall & Sons, yarn agents. For official purposes Henry named his parents and his sister Elizabeth Ellen of the same address as his next of kin. His medical inspection noted that he was 22 years and 2 months old and that he was quite tall standing at five feet ten and a half inches.

Promotions quickly followed for Henry, by 1st May 1915 he had been promoted to Corporal and less than a year later on the 11th March 1916 he was an Assistant Sergeant. Henry sailed to France with the 2/4th Battalion on the 7th February 1917 having been confirmed in the rank of Sergeant the same day, the 2/4th Battalion coming under the command of the 170th Brigade in 57th (2nd West Lancashire) Division.

On the 31st July 1917 the Third Battle of Ypres began but the 2/4th Battalion only became involved on the 26th October 1917 in what was known as the Second Battle of Passchendaele, the 57th Division including the 2/4th LNL being part of Gough`s 5th Army. The 57th Division as a whole incurred serious losses, the 2/4th Battalion bore it`s full share with 3 Officers, 58 other ranks being killed or died of wounds, 8 Officers and 251 non-commissioned Officers and men wounded and 38 men were reported missing, Henry, however, managed to survive.

Henry was promoted to Colour Sergeant on the 30th November 1917 and then appointed Company Quartermaster Sergeant the same day. Just prior to Christmas on the 21st December 1917 he was granted some home leave, returning to France on the 4th January 1918. When Henry re-joined his Battalion they were in the Erquinghem area, close to Armentieres where they were providing working parties when out of the line and also doing some patrol work up at the front. The Battalion, however, was seriously short of men at this time with just 25 Officers and no more than 480 other ranks but by the end of February having received several drafts of reinforcements they were more or less brought back up to strength. The Battalion spent the first three weeks of March in a rest area at Pont de Nieppe before the Brigade marched off to Fleuxbaix, later relieving a brigade of the 38th Division in the Wez Marquart sector. They remained here until early May before moving on to the Bucquoy area, south of Arras where they were to relieve the 42nd Division.

Extract from Battalion War Diary

6th May 1917 – The 57th Division relieved the 42nd in the line. The Battalion relieved the 8th Manchester Regiment, 126th Brigade in Brigade Reserve at Coigneux, leaving at 2.15pm.

7th – 9th May 1917 – Coigneux – Working parties on BEER TRENCH (the old British front line E. of Fonqievillers – Hebuterne, also in Divn. Signal dug-out near Bayencourt.

10th May 1917 – The Battalion took over the defence of BEER TRENCH from the 1/5th Bn Loyal N. Lancs. The first `Coy` left Coigneux at 7.30pm and the remainder at half hour intervals. Relief complete at 12.20am.

11th May 1917 – BEER TRENCH (Fonqievillers) – Working parties at Julius Point and Rum Trench (Gommecourt). During the morning and afternoon about 30 shells fell in the vicinity of Right Coy and Battalion H.Q. At 7pm heavy concentration of gas shells about the Battalion`s dug-outs and shelters. This continued until after 10pm. At 11pm orders were received from 172 Bde H.Q. to move the Battalion to higher ground in STOUT TRENCH.

The War Diary also notes that between the 10th and 11th May two other ranks were wounded but 23 Officers and 341 other ranks had been `gassed`, Henry Thompson being one of the latter.

By the 12th May Henry had been admitted with a gas shell wound to 29 Casualty Clearing Station and two days later on the 14th May he was admitted to 9 General Hospital in Rouen. Sadly, Henry only survived for another three days, dying as a result of his wounds on the 17th May 1918.

Not long after his family had been informed of his death they received a letter from his Company Officer, an extract of which was printed in the Preston Guardian;

His family later received quite a large number of Henry`s personal effects including; 1 Swan fountain pen, 12 keys on a ring, 1 badge, 1 silver cigarette case, 1 pipe, 1 pocket case, letters and photographs, 2 watches (1 wrist with strap and guard), 1 tobacco pouch, 1 whistle and strap, 2 pairs nail clippers, 1 band ring (9 carat gold) and 1 photograph case.

Henry was later buried in St. Sever Cemetery Extension in Rouen. After the war his family would receive his British War and Victory Medals and also his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

He is also included on the Preston Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum and Library in Preston as indicated below by the submission form completed by his family.

Rank: Company Quartermaster Serjeant
Service No: 200858
Date of Death: 17/05/1918
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, ‘C Coy’ 2nd/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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