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L/Sgt George Henry Howarth was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery in the trench raid of 10th January 1917 at Wieltje north east of Ypres he was also one of the 49 soldiers wounded in the action.

His MM card carries the Schedule No: 68645 a unique number for medal issue, and included on the Army Medal Recommendation Form W 3121 if a medal is approved of, his MM award (as Cpl) appeared in the London Gazette of 12th March 1917.

George Henry Howarth was born in 1882 and lived with his mother Miss Alice Howarth at 253 Manchester Road East, Little Hulton near Bolton he was a banksman (above ground) employed at Roscoe’s Peel Hall colliery. A banksman was responsible for the safety of loading/unloading the cage with men or trucks that used the pit shaft. On the 1911 census return as ( Haworth sic ) and completed in George’s handwriting his mother is shown as the head of the family aged 58, single, not married being employed as a cotton ring spinner, George aged 29 is shown as her only child.

Enlisting into the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the L.N.L. Regiment on 23rd May 1900 for 4 years’ service with 2 year extension periods he was given the army number 606 and his promotions within the V.B. were:
Private 23.5.1900 – 6.7.1905 L/Cpl 7.7.1905 – 8.7.1906 Cpl 9.7.1906 – 31.3.1908

As part of the modernization of the British Army in 1908 the Territorial Force came into being and incorporated the previous Volunteer Battalions, his promotions after this event in the 5th bn L.N. L Regiment (T.F.) were:
L/Sgt 2.8.1908 – 16.8.1908 A/Sgt 4.8.1908 – 31.5.1909 Sgt 1.6.1909 – he reverted to Pte on 21.7.1910 at his own request and was again promoted to Sgt in 1912.

He attended the annual camps of 1910,1911,1912,1913 and the first few days 2nd- 4th August 1914 when the battalion was recalled from camp due to the outbreak of the war, the day after 5th August he again reverted back to Pte.

Whilst in training at Henbury in Gloucestershire on 21st September 1914 he signed the agreement to serve overseas.

Being aware that he was off to France in a fortnight he had obtained a leave pass until 6pm on 30th January 1915, he did not return to camp until 09.45 am on 31st January a full 15 hours 45 minutes late, as a punishment he forfeited 1 day’s pay.

He embarked from Southampton to France on 12th February 1915 and having marched through the rain and snow of France to Armentieres was admitted to the Field Ambulance with Influenza on the 18th September until 9th October 1915.

Now embodied and with his prior military experience, he climbed the promotion ladder again to substantive corporal on 12th May 1916.

On the 1st July 1916 at the opening of the battle of the Somme the battalion had not been engaged, they were in the trenches at Bellacourt and had mainly been employed on working parties. They were however to take part in one of the many actions for the village of Guillemont on 8th – 9th August 1916 where they had 131 men killed, wounded and missing. The battalion also suffered many casualties throughout September from enemy fire whilst being used for salvage work and as burial parties on the edges of Delville Wood after the major battle that had taken place there.

He was promoted L/Sgt on 28th December 1916 and with the change of the army numbering system in 1917 his service number became 240041.

He marched with ‘D’ company on the 9th January 1917 to the spare ground besides Ypres prison where a rehearsal was made with all 140 officers and men for the next days’ raid on the enemy trenches in front of the Divisional Commander, who expressed his approval of their display, the ground today is close by to the CWGC Ypres Reservoir Cemetery

Military Medal.
In the late afternoon of the 10th January 1917 he was a participant in the raid of the enemy trenches at Wieltje. There is no roll for which party ‘A’ or ‘B’ an individual was present with on this day, and his particular act of bravery that earned him the MM has been lost to history with the destruction of the citations for that award in WWII. During the assault he was one of those 49 individuals who had been wounded but he was able to get back to British lines on completion of the task.

It appears he had a brief period of furlough at the end of January and returned home.

His photograph appeared in the Bolton Journal & Guardian of 9th February 1917 with the accompanying report:

“In a raid on the German trenches recently a section of the L.N.L. acquitted themselves with distinction according to reports from men who were present and who are now enjoying a brief respite from their arduous labours at the front. When the order was given 120 men (sic) sprang over the parapets and made straight for the German trenches. They were met by machine gun fire but nothing daunted they went forward, using their hand bombs with great effectiveness. They penetrated to the third line of German trenches and created much havoc and slaughter amongst the enemy, one of the Loyal Norths accounted for 10 Boches himself. It was a fine piece of work and carried out with spirit and bravery. Two Little Hulton soldiers Sergt GH Howarth and Pte John Lane secured Military Medals for gallantry in the action. The Germans informed some of the Loyal Norths that they had been sent up specially from the Somme to meet the English in the sector when the raid was made and the Loyals gave them a very warm reception.”

Reported a month after the event and apparently taken from personal accounts it is accompanied by the photographs of 2 of the 3 L.N.L. MM winners Howarth and Lane. No reference is made as to which soldier of the regiment accounted for the amount of enemy referred to in the text but the inclusion of their photographs can only be speculated upon.

The war diary of the 11th February 1917 whilst the battalion was at Volkerinckhove shows that the Brigadier General presented the MM ribbon to L/Sgt Howarth together with the other LNL raid MM winners.

He was again wounded on 3rd August 1917, when the battalion had been manning the Wieltje defences and had 1 man killed and 7 wounded that day. He was admitted to the Field Ambulance for slight wounds to the buttock and right shoulder and was able to rejoin his battalion 6 days later.

At 21.00hrs on 19th September 1917 the battalion left their positions at the canal bank in Ypres and moved to their new positions in the old German trench system at Wieltje at which they arrived at 00.30 hrs in the early hours of the following day.

The 20th September 1917 is the day that the 55th (West Lancashire) Division was involved in the battle of Menin Road Ridge and the capture of Hill 37. Sometime during the day Sgt George Henry Howarth MM was killed by a snipers bullet and would later be buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery (grave VIII a21). Their casualties for this action were: 20 killed with 144 wounded with 4 missing.

The following partially damaged column appeared in the Farnworth Journal of Friday 5th October 1917.

Little Hulton Medallist Killed
Mrs Howarth of 253 Manchester Road East, Little Hulton has just learned of the death of her only son Sgt George Henry Howarth of the Loyal North Lancs which occurred in the recent advance. His officer writes, “He was shot by a sniper and his death was instantaneous so I am told, I did not see him fall, I myself being 500 yards in front of him. I am very sorry because he was a good soldier. May God in his goodness give you strength to bear your great loss. He is buried on the battlefield where many other sons of Britain lie. I can safely say he was respected by——- be felt by all, but —–you— —-will close now”.

He was home on furlough at the end of January bandaged on the neck and— here—learned of the honour —– sent his mother a signed—– the Lieutenant General congratulating him on the honour done him and stated that when he got back to the front again his companions gave him a right royal welcome. He left a corporal and returned a sergeant the advancement also being due to his bravery.

Sgt Howarth who used to work at Messrs Roscoe’s Peel Hall Colliery, has put in 18 years’ service with the Territorials, and held a 2nd medal for long service in that connexion. His name is on the Roll of Honour of the Walkden Primitive Methodist Day School and St Johns (Blair) Sunday school. An ardent supporter of football, he followed the fortunes of Little Hulton Albion when a younger man, and was Secretary to the team which existed just before the war from which so many players joined the Army, several whom have made the supreme sacrifice.

The above news report would seem to confirm in some small part at least that Sgt Howarth had in fact been wounded in the region of the neck as evidenced by the bandage mentioned whilst on furlough at the end of January 1917, after his participation in the Wieltje raid.

With reference to the letter sent to his mother, this would tend to suggest a similar congratulatory card for the MM from their C.O. Lieut General Sir Aylmer Hunter Weston KCB DSC as one also similarly worded received by fellow raid MM winner Sgt David Robinson.

His mother was sent his Military Medal which she acknowledged by making her ‘X’ mark on the medal receipt which was witnessed by a member of the council office at Little Hulton. Besides the Military Medal the other awards to Sgt Howarth for his army service was a 1914 -15 Star trio and Territorial Force Efficiency Medal. The other medal acknowledgement slip contained within his service file is that for the 1914-15 Star, this was signed for by one Mrs. E Howarth on 4th February 1920.

His name together with that of fellow raid MM winner Pte John Lane appears on the Little Hulton War Memorial situated in the grounds of St Paul’s Church Peel Lane.

Little Hulton War Memorial

For the Weiltje Trench Raid main index please CLICK HERE.

Garry Farmer
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