photo courtesy of Chris Eaton

‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

Date of Death:01/07/1916
Service No:24844
Regiment:South Wales Borderers
Unit:2nd Bn.
Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery No.2
Grave Ref:A.13

Harry Watkin was born in Oldham in 1889, his parents were Samuel and Isabella. Both parents worked in the local mills. Harry had four siblings - Fred, Hilda, John and Ernest. The Watkin family lived in Oldham's Waterhead district but by 1898 they were living in Royton and were at 215 Higginshaw Lane at the time of the 1901 census. In 1911 they were at number 167 on the same road and Harry was working as a piecer in a local mill - probably the Moss Lane Mill, later he was a minder at the Lion Mill.
Harry enlisted in January 1914 into the Royal Army Medical Corps before being transferred to the South Wales Borderers, perhaps after the outbreak of war in August 1914, and that regiment's 2nd Battalion. The 2nd SWB had landed at Gallipoli on April 25th 1915 and suffered the same heavy losses as most other infantry units there. Harry arrived as part of a new draft of men on August 7th 1915. Two weeks later the battalion was to go over the top at the Battle of Scimitar Hill. For their part in the battle the 87th Brigade's (which included the 2nd SWB) plan was that after 30 minutes bombardment the 1st Inniskillings would pass through the front line, held by the 1st KOSB and the machine guns of the 2nd SWB and Borders, and assault Scimitar Hill. The neighbouring 86th Brigade were to simultaneously assault Hill W on the right. When these positions had been taken the 2nd SWB were to capture the trenches between the two points already attacked. At 14:30 the bombardment began but by Western Front standards, even those of 1915, it was a weak one. The Inniskillings started forward at 15:00 and although they reached the crest of Scimitar Hill they were forced to fall back under withering fire from both flanks to halfway down the hill. The Borders reinforced them and the attack was renewed, again flanking fire defeated them. The 2nd SWB were now put into the fight. They found themselves under heavy fire in a very confused situation in which men from the various units of both the 86th and 87th Brigades were mixed up. They were eventually ordered to withdraw as without support on the flanks a successful attack was impossible. Casualties had been heavy, the 2nd SWB had lost nearly 300 men, nearly a third of it's numbers. The fighting that day was the last attempt by the British to break through at Anzac and Suvla.
The battalion remained at Gallipoli until they were evacuated on the evening of January 8th 1916. 27 officers and 1008 rank and file had sailed for Gallipoli the previous April, 16 officers and 485 left it that January night. In the meantime it's drafts had amounted to 52 officers and 1028 men. It's losses in battle and from disease had been over 150% of it's original strength.
From Gallipoli the battalion headed to Egypt. In March they were sent to France, sailing to Marseilles, arriving on the 15th of March and travelling by train to an area east of Pont Remy by the end of March. Then on April 3rd the 2nd SWB moved up to the front line for the first time on the Western Front. It's first tour in the trenches was to prove memorable as at about 21:00 on April 6th the Germans opened up a tremendous bombardment. Great damage was inflicted - dug outs were smashed, with occupants buried, telephone lines severed and general chaos reigned. Casualties were heavy - 29 killed, 18 missing and 36 wounded.
After essentially being wiped out over a course of months at Gallipoli the 2nd South Wales Borderers were to be annihilated on one morning on July 1st 1916, the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. They were one of the initial assault units for the first day of the Battle of the Somme, attacking towards German held Beamont-Hamel. They were on the left of 87th Brigades attack with the 86th Brigade on the battalion's left. At 05:00 that morning hot tea was served and at 06:00 the British guns began a steady bombardment which developed into an intensive one an hour later. At 07:20 as a precursor to the attack a huge mine near Hawthorn Redoubt was exploded, this was in front of the 86th Brigade's front to the left of Harry Watkin and the the rest of the 2nd SWB. The men began to get out of their trenches and filed through the gaps in the wire in readiness for the assault. As they reached the outer edge of the British wire the German machine guns opened up with a fire that rapidly increased in intensity. Before 'Zero Hour' at 07:30 the casualties suffered by the 2nd SWB were already serious. It must have been apparent to all what their likely fate during the attack was going to be. Nevertheless they went forward at the allotted time into a deluge of shrapnel and were mown down wholesale by the German machine guns. The men had about 600 yards of ground to cross, a few survivors of A Company reached to within 20 yards of the German wire. C Company got to within 60 yards and D Company were destroyed some 300 yards out. It was then B Company's turn to be slaughtered. They clambered out of the support trench and started to advance, whilst still in the British wire men were being mown down. The survivors pushed on and a handful of men were seen 50 yards from the enemy wire before being shot down. By 07:50 the 2nd SWB had been virtually wiped out. The vast majority of men had been hit, the survivors could only cling on in whatever shelter from the bullets they could find. After the 2nd SWB's annihilation it was the turn of the 1st Borders and the Newfoundland Regiment to attack across the same ground and both suffered similar fates. None of the Borders reached the line of survivors of the 2nd SWB's C Company. The vast majority of Newfoundlanders also never made it as far as the SWB's survivors - some 790 officers and men of the Newfoundland Regiment went into action. Of these, no fewer than 272 lost their lives; a further 11 officers and 427 men were wounded, making in all 710 of the 790.
The 2nd SWB's casualty list included 15 of the 21 officers and 384 of the 578 men engaged - 235 of whom were listed as being killed or missing. In the large majority of cases 'missing' merely meant their body had fallen too far ahead to be recovered.
Harry Watkin was one of the many men killed. Killed in the next wave was Royton man Fred Grisdale of the Border Regiment. In all there are 13 Royton men commemorated on this website who were killed that terrible day.
By early August, Harry's parents had been officially notified that he was listed as missing. Then in early May 1917 they got the confirmation that he was presumed to have been killed in action. His body was evidently later found and identified as he lies in Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery No.2 rather than having his name amongst the tens of thousands of missing on the Thiepval Memorial. Samuel, Harry's father, died in 1919 and his mother Isabella remarried in Heyside in 1922 to a Joseph Brooks.
The other men of the 2nd SWB listed as being killed on July 1st 1916 were:

ANDERSON W Serjeant 9328                    
ARMSTRONG GEORGE Lance Corporal    24708                    
AULD FRANCIS Private 25187                    
BANYARD  ORLANDO Private 15574                    
BARKER F Serjeant 11768                    
BILL ROWLAND  Company Serjeant Major 8265                    
BLANE FRANCIS 23 Lance Corporal 25046                     
BOON F Lance Corporal 12807                    
BOWYER GEORGE 26 Second Lieutenant from London                
BUCKLAND WILLIAM Private 10329                    
BURGESS SAMUEL 18 Private 3/34509 from Stoke-on-Trent                
BUTCHER WR Corporal 10701                    
CAMPBELL WILLIAM Private 25130                    
CHIVERS WILLIAM Private 19939                    
CLARGO L Lance Corporal 9719                    
CLARKE ALFRED Lance Corporal 15602                    
CRABB WALTER 22  Private  19092 from London.Brother also killed WW1                
CROSS JOB 32 Corporal 6839                    
CROSS WILLIAM Private 18796                    
DALTON EDWARD 28 Private 25132 from Ireland                
DAVIES WILLIAM Lance Corporal 10314                    
DOE CHARLES Private 19062                    
DOWDING  THOMAS Private 11392                    
DOYLE THOMAS 27 Private 13632 from Newport                
DRANE G.E Private 10909                    
DRIFFILL CHARLES 18 Private 11334 from Hull                
EASTALL STANLEY Lance Corporal 9998                    
EDE C.W Lance Corporal  11317                    
EDWARDS FREDERICK 23 Private 18519 from Cardiff                
EDWARDS WILLIAM Serjeant 10077                    
EVANS DANIEL 21 Corporal 11227 from Merthyr                
EVANS DAVID 30 Private 18705 from Glamorgan                
EVANS HUMPHREY Lieutenant                        
EVANS S Lance Corporal 25554                    
FAIRBRASS JOSEPH 27 CSM  9189 two brothers also killed WW1                
FALLS ROBERT Lance Corporal 9391                    
FISHER CYRIL 29 MM Private 19283 (served as Wallace)from Newport                
FORMBY CHARLES 21 Private 19172 from Stockport                
FRIEND B.G Private 9022                    
GIFFORD JAMES Private 11963                    
GIMBLETT PERCY 29 Lance Corporal 13678 from Monmouthshire                
GOODWIN  CHARLES 19 Private 19684 from Castleford                
GOULD J Private 13273                    
GRAY JOHN Private 24752                    
GREENHILL WILLIAM 19 Private 11325 from London                
GREGORY  ARTHUR Private 19895                    
GUNN JOHN 20 Private 25193 from Wick                
HAINES J Private 4/13865                    
HAMMOND HARRY 29 Private 10043 from London                
HARRIS W Military Medal Lance Serjeant                         
HEDGLEY THOMAS  21 Private 25164 from Southend                
HOBBS JOHN 32 Private 19728 from London                
HODGSON  HARRY Private 25165                    
HOWCROFT C.E Military Medal Serjeant 13013                    
HUGHES ALEXANDER 29 Captain from London                
HUGHES HUGH Private 25042                    
HUGHES TOM 23 Private 19453                     
HULL H Private 24539                    
HUMPHREYS J.A  Private 13543                    
JACKSON CHARLES Lance Corporal 25123                    
JONES ALFRED 28 Private 18504 from Usk                
JONES JOSEPH Private 14898                    
KARRAN JOHN 2nd.Lt                        
KING WALTER 25 Private 10438 from Monmouthshire                
KINSEY J Private 19450                    
KIRKHAM ISAAC Private 19629                    
LAING WILLIAM 25 Private 25120                     
LEWIS B Private  4/12853                    
LEWIS WJ Private 13269                    
LLOYD FREDERICK  25 Serjeant 10268                    
LOWDELL  ALBANY Private 26479                    
MILLS AJ Corporal 9919                    
MILLWARD WC Miltary Medal Private 10169                    
MOORE JL Private 24792                    
MORGAN JAMES 36 Lance Corporal 1996                    
MORRIS ERNEST Private 25167                    
MOSS ISAAC 19 Private 19474 from Stoke-on-Trent                
MOULDING WILLIAM Private 24878                    
McBAIN  W.A Private 10876                    
McFARREN FREDERICK Private 9628                    
NICHOLAS WILLIAM Corporal 13700                    
O'KEEFE C Private 25517                    
OSBORN HORACE Private 24799 from Essex                
OWEN MOSES Lance Corporal 13057                    
PAGE CHARLES  Private 10717                    
PALMER ARTHUR 30 Private 3/18782 from Dudley                
PAYNE WALTER 23 Bandsman 9538 (served as Bath)                
PEAKE FRED 27 Private 24608 from Widnes                
PENHALE  WILLIAM Private 12292                    
POWELL FRANK Private 25145                    
PRICE WILLIAM Lance Corporal 10575                    
PUGH J Private 13010                    
QUINN P 23 Military Medalists Private 1/11820 from Glamorgan                
RAND HENRY 28 Private 8934 from London                
RAVEN ALBERT 19 Private 25146 from London                
RICE F  2nd.Lt                        
RICHARDS RICHARD 23 Serjeant 13713 from Bridgend                
ROBERTS WALTER 26 Corporal 8876 from London                
ROBINSON JOHN 29 2nd.Lt from Barry                
ROSSITER FRANCIS Private 24806                    
SANDERSON GEORGE Serjeant 9329                    
SELBY HENRY 19 Private 19624 from London                
SHAKESHAFT T Private 24508                    
SHARP ALBERT Private 24680                    
SIDGWICK THOMAS 24 Private 24660 from Northallerton                
SMALLEY  C 19 Lance Corporal 19595 from Warrington                
SMITH WALTER 28 Serjeant 10023 from Bristol                
SPENCER WILLIAM Private 24816                    
TAYLOR P.H Private 25201                    
TAYLOR WILLIAM Private 24617                    
THOMAS CHARLES Lance Corporal 10902                    
THOMAS DAVID 34 Private 18563 from Carmarthenshire                
THOMAS T.C 22 Private 18583 from Cardiff                
TURNER J Private 24591                    
TURNER JAMES 29  Private  9713 from Worcestershire.Brother also killed WW1                
TURNER W.T Private 15376                    
UPTON WALTER 26 Corporal 24817 from Bedfordshire                
WALTERS G 22 Private 11876 from Rhondda                
WARD WILLIAM 32  Private 15342 from Chepstow                
WASDELL ARTHUR Private 24831                    
WELLS THOMAS 2nd.Lt                        
WESTCOTT FREDERICK Privat 19604                    
WILLIAMS E Private 19435                    
WILLIAMS EDWARD 23 Private 13333 from Cardiff                
WILLIAMS WILLIAM Private 16417                    
WILMOTT FREDERICK 27 Private 13759                     
WINTER F 19 Private 24846 from London                
WOFFENDEN ALBERT Private 9821                    
YALDEN L Military Medalist Private 24848                    
YOUNG JAMES Private 15571