An official British Military drawing from 1917 depicting the fighting at Delville Wood in 1916
The 7th Battalion remained dug in on this line for the rest of the day and were relieved at dusk. George Heywood had been shot in the back and was seriously wounded. Fellow Royton man, William Standring was dead. George arrived at one of the large hospitals behind the lines at Abbeville on September 19th and passed away five days later on the 24th.
On the morning of Thursday September 28th, George's mother Jane received official notification that he was in hospital abroad with serious gunshot wounds. That night came another official communication - George was dead.
Delville Wood pictured after the battle. © IWM
The Battalion's next action was to be George Heywood's last. This was the first day of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on September 15th 1916. The objective was to smash holes in the German defences by the use of massed artillery and infantry attacks. At 06:20 all four infantry battalions of the 41st Brigade advanced. The 7th KRRC were part of the second line along with the 7th Rifle Brigade. The intial wave consisting of the 8th KRRC and 8th Rifle Brigade took their objectives against stout German resistance. Once this was achieved the men of the 7th KRRC passed through the carnage to attack their own objectives. This they were successful in doing and started to consolidate their position. The resistance the battalion had met was light but they lost heavily from shell fire during their advance. Also, in the heat of battle, many men went forward again when the next wave - from the 42nd Brigade - passed through their lines. Few of these men returned.
The Battle of Flers-Courcelette.The dawn sky is lit by the bombardment before the assault.15/09/1916.© IWM
George Heywood was born in Royton in 1889. His parents were George and Jane, originally from Middleton and Stalybridge respectively. George senior & Jane had 10 children, 6 of whom survived past infancy. George junior was the youngest of these by 10 years. His older siblings were John, Robert, Selina, Alice and Emily. The family lived at 3 Windmill Street, being there for the 1891 and 1901 censuses. By 1911 they were living at 6 Old Edge Lane, the three sisters had all married and moved out but George and his two brothers were still with their parents. George's father died in 1913 aged 68. George worked at the Monarch Mill and by the time he enlisted in 1915 was a minder there. He enlisted in Royton on May 12th 1915 and was sent from there to the King's Royal Rifle Corps depot at Winchester and then another journey to the 5th Battalion who were based near Sheerness. The 5th Battalion was a reserve unit and it was with them that George received his basic training.
On March 8th 1915 he was sent to France, arriving there the following day. It was not until May 26th that he reached, along with 75 other men, the 7th King's Royal Rifle Corps. Why it took him so long is a mystery but it cannot have been due to any poor soldiering during his training on reaching France as he had been made a Lance Corporal by the time of his death four months later.
In mid August the 7th KRRC were involved in the Battle of Delville Wood. They took part in an attack on August 18th. The 41st Brigade were to attack Orchard Trench,just north-west of Delville Wood, and a trench beyond it, the 7th KRRC being on the right of it's attack. The British bombardment began at 06:00 and then at zero hour - 14:45 - the battalion went over the top. They advanced close behind a creeping barrage and found Orchard Trench much damaged and nearly empty of defenders and started digging in. They then came under heavy machine gun and rifle fire from a strong point in the adjacent corner of Delville Wood, which caused many casualties. This fire was kept down by the battalion's grenade throwers, known at the time as 'bombers'.In total that day 3 officers died and 4 injured. Amongst the other ranks the losses were 42 dead, 174 wounded and 4 missing.Next morning the Battalion came under further fire from Delville Wood - this time in the form of some accurate sniping. Then at 20:00 a heavy German bombardment commenced which was followed by a weak attack by their infantry, this was easily beaten off. When things quietened down the Battalion was relieved by the 2nd Worcesters. The casualties on the 19th were 9 killed, 28 wounded and 1 missing.
Date of Death:24/09/1916
Regiment:King's Royal Rifle Corps
Cemetery:Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension