Date of Death:06/09/1916
Grave Reference:I. A. 26.
Harry was with the 22nd Battalion by the time the Battle of the Somme began on July 1st 1916. The battalion were in action that day, a day that saw the British Army suffer the worst casualties in it's history. The 91st Brigade was to use two of it's four infantry battalions as assault troops - the 22nd Manchesters & the 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment. The men were to attack German positions known as Bunny Alley & Fritz Trench which were north and east of the village of Mametz. They would have to get across 150 yards of No Mans Land first.The men managed to reach the German front line with relatively few casualties but as they advanced further they came under withering machine gun fire from the German troops who had by now surfaced from their underground bunkers, where they had been sheltering from the British artillery bombardment. Hard fighting went on through the day and by 16:00 the whole of Mametz was in British hands along with Bunny & Fritz trenches. The 22nd Manchesters had taken their objectives, a relatively rare occurrence for British troops on that bloody day but it came at a terrible cost. Of the 796 men with the battalion that morning there were 472 casualties - some 200 of who were killed. Robert Long, Fred Ludlam, Alfred Oliver, John Edward Pickles , Fred Travis & Harold Fitton all lay dead. In other units another seven Royton men were killed that day.
On July 5th the remainding men, Harry amongst them, were relieved by the 13th Royal Welsh Fusiliers and once out of the front line they received a draft of 434 reinforcements. While 105 of these were Manchester Regiment men the majority of the new men were from Southern England. The 22nd Manchesters were a pals unit no longer. Harry Brassington and the new look battalion were in action again on the 15th of the month when they played a supporting role in an attack on German positions in High Wood. This time over 20 further men were to be killed and yet another Royton lad amongst them - Robert Stott Mellor.
The next time the battalion were called upon was on September 6th. They were in the area near Ginchy and were part of the reserve force for an attack to take place that day. The attack was cancelled but throughout the day the men came under German shellfire. Four men were killed, Harry Brassington being one of them. He was not killed outright but died of his wounds in a dressing station.
The other three were:
ARMITAGE PERCY 23 Private 27476 from Werneth, Oldham
ECCLESTON JOHN Private 33144 from Wigan
JOLLEY ALBERT Private 20750 from Manchester
On September 8th 1917 Harry's family posted the following three notices in the Oldham Chronicle:
In loving memory of Private Harry Brassington,Manchester Regiment,
who died of wounds September 6th 1916
Tis only those who have lost can tell
The pain and grief of a last farewell
A loving son,true and kind
A beautiful memory he has left behind
He nobly answered duty's call
And gave his life for one and all
A good life is often too short
But a good name endureth for ever
From his loving Father and Brother Frank
A light is from our household gone
A voice we loved is still
A place is vacant on our hearth
Which never can be filled
From his loving Twin Brother,Willie.
Sleep on dear Harry in your lonely grave
Your life for your country you nobly gave
No one stood near you to say good-bye
But safe in God's keeping now you lie
From his loving Brother and Sister-in-law
Rayner and Nellie
The tiny figures you can see against the white chalk are the 22nd Manchesters and 1st South Staffords advancing on July 1st 1916. 6 Royton men of the battalion were killed. Photo courtesy of IWM
Harry was one of twins born in Royton in 1894, William being the other. Their parents were William and Alice.Harry had two other,older, brothers - Frank & Rayner.They lived for a time on Dogford Road but by the time of his death his father was at 30 Glen Grove, his mother having died in 1915. Harry worked as a joiner minder at the Vine Mill.
Harry's service number indicates he was one of a group of men who joined up in around about January 1916 - it looks like he enlisted with a friend from the Vine Mill, John Barlow, and was part of a batch from the Oldham area - with many from Royton - eventually assigned to the 22nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Before that he spent a while with the 27th Battalion, with John Barlow and also Abraham Singleton, which was a reserve unit then based in Southport. The 22nd Battalion had started life as the 7th City Battalion - one of Manchester's eight Pals Battalions - and had been out in France since November 1915.