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Henry Birch was baptised at St. John`s Parish Church in Preston on the 27th June 1880. He was the second of three sons born to his parents Cuthbert and Elizabeth Birch (nee Breakell). Cuthbert Birch, a farmer and widower aged 55 years old married Elizabeth Breakell, spinster and servant aged 30 years on the 8th October 1878 at St. Andrew`s Parish Church, Ashton on Ribble in Preston. A son Edward was born in 1879, Henry arrived in 1880 and then James in 1881.

Cuthbert Birch`s first marriage was to Ann Tuson in 1846 in Preston and they had six children together before Ann died in 1877.

By 1891 Cuthbert, Elizabeth and their three sons Edward, Henry and James were living at Lea Hall Cottage where Cuthbert was working as a general labourer, the three boys were all attending school. Sadly, Cuthbert Birch died on the 20th January 1896 at his home in Lea.

By 1901 Henry had gone to work as a cattleman on Bryar`s Farm in Lea working for farmer Lawrence Bailey and his wife Elizabeth and he was still living and working as a cattleman for the same family on their farm in 1911.

Henry enlisted for the duration of the war at Preston on the 11th December 1915. At his medical inspection it was noted that he was five feet four and a quarter inches tall. He had a 39” chest and he weighed 145lbs. He was unmarried and had no previous military experience and had been working as a cowman prior to his enlistment. Henry was 35 years and 9 months old at the time and he named his mother Elizabeth Birch of Saddle Cottage, Lea as his next of kin. He was found fit to serve and then posted to the reserve.

On the 13th September 1916 Henry was mobilised and posted to number 2 Brigade (Reserve) Royal Field Artillery and was issued with the service number 171664. Two months later on the 23rd November 1916 he was posted to the 76th Training Reserve Battalion and his service number became 52453. Henry embarked at Folkestone with a batch of reinforcements on the 12th January 1917 and on arrival was posted to the 1st Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, joining them at Fricourt Camp on the 16th January 1917 within a batch of 250 reinforcements. His service number was now 36017.

On the 24th January 1917 the 1st Battalion moved up to a camp at Bresle where they engaged in more training, route marches and cleaning up and refitting. The Battalion remained at Bresle until the 3rd February 1917 when they moved to Mericourt sur Somme. The War Diary notes that the weather at the time was exceptionally cold with heavy frosts. Two days later they moved into huts in Chuignes that had recently been occupied by the French, more training followed.

A thaw in the weather began and by the time the Battalion relieved the 2nd Welch Regiment in the front line on the 23rd February 1917 the trenches had become very wet and muddy and in places had become almost impassable. They only remained in the front line for three days and after being relieved by the 2nd Royal Sussex Regiment on the 26th the Battalion went back into reserve at dugouts in Dompierre. By the 2nd March 1917 they were back in the front line trenches after relieving the 2nd Royal Sussex once more.

The Battalion War Diary notes for the 3rd and 4th March 1917 – “both quiet days few casualties”.

Sadly, Henry was one of the few casualties on the 4th March when he was severely wounded with gun-shot wounds to his right hip and abdomen. He was removed to 48 Casualty Clearing Station at Bray sur Somme where he died of his wounds later the same day.

After her sons` death Elizabeth Birch had the following information published in the Preston Guardian.36017 Private Henry Birch 1st Battalion

A number of Henry`s personal effects were eventually returned to his mother, these comprised;

  • 2 letters and 2 photos
  • 1 greeting card
  • 1 pipe
  • 2 wallets
  • 1 pencil
  • 1 purse
  • 1 bag
  • 1 silver coin (6d)

Henry was buried in Bray Military Cemetery on the Somme.

After the war Henry was awarded the British War and Victory Medals in recognition of his service and sacrifice for his country. Elizabeth Birch signed for her sons` medals and she would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll.

Rank: Private
Service No: 36017
Date of Death: 04/03/1917
Age: 36
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.

Janet Davis
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One Response to 36017 PTE. H. BIRCH. L.N.LAN.R.

  1. Joanne Wiig says:

    Hi Janet,

    Thanks so much for this lovely write up on my Uncle Henry..quite moving..its eerie how like the men on the Birch side he looks like..love it, Joanne Wiig (nee Birch) x

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