Harry Hunt was born in Shaw in 1894, his parents being Matthew and Elizabeth Ann. Matthew was a cotton worker who was originally from Derbyshire while Elizabeth Ann had been born in Manchester. Harry had two younger sisters; Annie born in 1899 and Laura in 1903. In 1904, Harry's father Matthew died aged only 33. At some point in the following years the family moved just over the border to 543 Shaw Road, Royton to the home of Matthew's sister Laura and her husband John Joe Leigh. Harry, Annie and Laura were then orphaned in 1910 when Elizabeth Ann died aged 40. The Leigh's took guardianship of the three of them.
The 1911 census found Harry working as a piecer in one of the local mills, perhaps the Oak Mill in Shaw where he was working as a minder at the point of his enlistment.
Harry enlisted late in 1915 in Oldham and then spent time with one of the Manchester Regiment's reserve units. It wasn't until around about November 1916 that he was sent out for active service, joining up with the 16th Battalion in France. The 16th had been raised shortly after the outbreak of war as one of Manchester's Pals Battalions and had suffered heavy casualties since their baptism of fire on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The month previous to Harry Hunt joining their ranks, Royton man Robert Hilton had been killed serving with them.
When Harry joined the Battalion they were enjoying a quiet spell of trench life which lasted from November 1st 1916 until January 7th 1917. The routine was a regular one,five days in the line and five days in support or reserve billets at Bailleulval. This village was almost in the front line and still occupied by French civilians. There seems to have been an unofficial armistice between both sides in this sector at the time - the Battalion's reliefs often took place in broad daylight under the guns of the Germans and they were very rarely harassed whilst doing so. The Battalion only lost two men during this period.
On January 8th a move was made to billets at Warlutz, and on the 24th to Dainville near Arras. Two months were spent in this area supplying working parties to help the 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion in railway construction between Doullens and Pommern. This was in connection with an extensive railway scheme in preparation for Britain's big spring offensive in the Arras area.
When the Battle of Arras commenced on April 9th 1917 the Battalion was in reserve at Ficheux, later that day moved up as close support and then advanced to near to Germans entrenched in the Hindbenburg Line. This was an extremely heavily fortified position and a daunting task for any troops to attack.
On April 23rd the 90th Brigade attacked the German held village of Cherisy. The 17th Manchesters and 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers were to lead the assault with the 16th Manchesters in immediate support. During the fighting the Battalion supplied bombing parties in aid of the 17th and the Royal Scots. Very little ground was made and the losses were predictably appalling, James Abner Stansfield was one of the 17th Battalion's casualties. The Germans in launching counter attacks also suffered terrible losses. While the fighting raged from that day until April 27th the Battalion suffered many casualties. On April 25th Harry Hunt was badly wounded and died of his wounds the following day.
The week after his death, Harry's aunt Laura back in Royton received the official notification. She was only recently widowed, John Joe having died in March aged 49. The Oldham Chronicle reported that Harry was well known and highly respected in Shaw and had been an ardent worker when at Shaw Primitive Methodist School. Harry left his belongings to his two younger sisters. Harry's name can be found on Royton's War Memorial, perhaps he should be on Shaw and Crompton's also.
Harry's parents, his aunt Laura (who died in 1930 aged 56) and her husband John Joe are buried together at Crompton Cemetery.
The men of the 16th Manchesters listed as being killed on the day Harry Hunt was mortally wounded are listed below. It can clearly be seen from their home towns the amount of casualties Manchester's Pals had suffered during the Battle of the Somme.
BIBB RICHARD 25 Private 43115 from Birmingham
FLINT MARK Private 40907 from Wirksworth,Derbyshire
PARKIN JOHN 20 Private 40847 from Sutton-in-Ashfield
RYLANDS FRANK 2nd Lieutenant
Date of Death:26/04/1917
Cemetery:Bucquoy Road Cemetery