Royton Roll of Honour

Rank:Lance Corporal
Service No:20126
Date of Death:17/11/1915
Regiment:Grenadier Guards
Unit:4th Bn
Hollybrook Memorial,Southampton

At 12:30 on November 17th 1915 as she neared Dover she struck a mine that had been laid by a German submarine and sank in fifteen minutes with considerable loss of life. The torpedo gunboat HMS Hazard and a collier the Lusitania were nearby and came to the aid of survivors. The Lusitania herself was then sunk by another mine but without any further casualties. Many of the wounded men on the ship were 'cot cases' and would have had no chance to save themselves.
Harry Fletcher was one of the many killed.
On the morning of Tuesday November 23rd, Alice Fletcher received a letter from Colonel H.Streatfield of the Grenadier Guards:

"I very much regret to inform you that a report has this day been received from the War Office to the effect that Lance-Corporal Harry Fletcher, 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards, is stated to have embarked upon the hospital ship Anglia,which was sunk on November 17th, and as his name does not appear in the list of survivors, it is feared that he has been rowned. I am, however, instructed to inform you that he is to be regarded as 'missing,believed drowned'. Should any further information be received in this office concerning him I will at once inform you, and I wish to take this opportunity of expressing to you my sympathy in your bereavement"

A Sister Nicholson later wrote from the hospital at Wimereux:

"I most sincerely hope we may even yet hear news of him...He was so ill at first but so brave all the time, and so cheerful with the other men that I miss him tremendously.....As I feel it so much I am sure if must be terribly hard for you all,especially you,his wife,whom he talked of unceasingly"

The following year for the anniversary of his death his family posted identical notices in the Oldham Chronicle and Rochdale Observer:

In ever loving & sweet memory of our son Lance Corporal Harry Fletcher,who was wounded at
Loos & drowned on the Anglia on November 17th 1915
"We think of him in silence
Not with an outward show
For the heart that mourns sincerely
Beats silently and low
We loved him in life, he is dear to us still
But in grief we must bend to God's Holy will,
Our sorrow was great, our loss hard to bear
But angels,dead husband,will tend thee with care"
From his sorrowing wife and children
and mother and father

The other soldiers, RAMC staff and nurse who died that day were:

ALLEN ROBERT 30  Private Canadian Infantry 29th Bn. 76124 originally from Lancashire
ALLEN WILLIAM Corporal South Lancs Regiment 8th Bn. 14010    
ARMSTRONG WILLIAM 21 Private Seaforth Highlanders 8th Bn.S/8918    from Workington
ASHLEY CHARLES 18 Private Lincolnshire Regiment    8th Bn.    4669 from Scunthorpe
BAKER CHARLES 24 Driver  A.S.C H.Q. Coy. 14th Div.Train T1/2411    
BALDWIN  JOHN 27 Serjeant Sussex Regiment 7th Bn.G/12    
BARBER ALBERT 21 Private Suffolk Regiment 2nd Bn. 8660 from Bury St Edmunds
BARLAS JOHN 18 Private Royal Scots 11th Bn. 22721 from Perthshire
BELL CHRISTOPHER Private Yorkshire Regiment 10th Bn.13724    
BIDDLESTONE RICHARD 21 Private East Yorks Regiment 8th Bn.14415 from Wolverhampton
BIGGINS JAMES Lance Corporal Sherwood Foresters 12th Bn.18223    
BILLOT STANLEY 36 Private R.A.M.C 8880    
BIRD WILLIAM Private Grenadier Guards 1st Bn. 19768    
BISHOP LAWRENCE Private Royal Scots 2nd Bn.11055    
BLACK ROBERT Private Canadian Infantry 26th Bn.    413009    
BOLDING    ALFRED Private London Regiment 13th Bn. 1464    
BRADBURY WILLIAM 30 Private Sherwood Foresters 2nd Bn.21959 from Derby
BRUCE WILLIAM Sapper Royal Engineers 173rd Tunnelling Coy.79663    
BYCROFT WILLIAM  20 Private Yorkshire Regiment 8th Bn.14379 from Middlesbrough
CAMPBELL ARTHUR  35 Private Highland Light Infantry 12th Bn.18106 from Glasgow
CAPPS ALFRED 26 Private  Middlesex Regiment 1st/7th Bn. TF/2511 from London
CAREY PATRICK 35 Gunner Royal Garrison Artillery 20th Siege Bty.19790 from Co.Kerry
CHAPMAN ALBERT 33 Gunner Royal Field Artillery  21st T.M. Bty. 25633 from Norwich
CHORLTON OWEN Private 10th Hussars 4963    
CLARKSON GEORGE 19 Private West Yorks Regiment 1st Bn.17238 from Leeds
COLEMAN  JOHN 23  Private  Canadian Infantry 19th Bn.55803 from Hamilton,Ontario
COLLINS JOHN 54 Pioneer Royal Engineers  8th Labour Bn.120181 from Pontefract
COLWELL  FREDERICK 17 Private Devonshire Regiment 9th Bn. 18616    from London
COX JOHN 37 Sapper Canadian Engineers 4th Field Coy.45 from London
CURSON GEORGE Private Canadian Infantry 2nd Bn. 7620    
DALTREY HARRY Corporal RAMC 4998    
DAVIES CHARLES Serjeant Royal Fusiliers 4th Bn

Henry (known as Harry) Fletcher was born in Oldham in 1883. His parents were Henry snr and Sarah Jane and he had a younger sister Edith. The family moved to Royton between 1896 and 1901, being at 21 Park Street for the 1901 census with both Harry, 17 by that point, and his father working in the cotton industry. Harry worked at the Star Mill which was on Edge Lane Street. At some point Harry married Alice and together they had three children. Establishing exactly when they got married and who their children were has proved difficult so if you have any information please get in touch. A Frank Fletcher was baptised at St.Paul's Church in 1909 whose parents, Harry & Alice, lived at 32 Holden Fold. Another son may have been called Wilfred.
What is known about Harry & Alice is that they moved to Rochdale around about 1910 and they lived at 9 Woodbine Street East. He seems to have still worked, as a minder, at the Star Mill back in Royton. Shortly after war broke out Harry enlisted in Rochdale in either late October or early November 1914 and became a member of the newly formed 4th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. The battalion left England on July 14th 1915 with Harry Fletcher amongst their number.
Fletcher and his comrades were to fight at the Battle of Loos, Britain's largest offensive of 1915, which started on September 25th. They were pitched into battle two days later on the 27th.The 3rd Guards Brigade, of which Harry's battalion was part, was to assault a German position called Hill 70. Hill 70 was the summit of a gentle rise in the ground. The success of their attack was dependent on the 2nd Guards Brigade on their left flank taking a pithead called Puits 14 bis. If the 2nd Guards Brigade failed the men attacking Hill 70 would be under murderous fire from that flank.
Starting their advance from Vermelles at 15:00 the 3rd Guards Brigade,of which Harry's battalion was part, began to take casualties at about 16:00 as it approached Loos village under a heavy German artillery barrage. In the ensuing confusion the 4th Grenadier Guards split into two with half heading off with the Scots Guards attacking Puits 14 Bis and the other half (though by now reduced to a single Company’s strength) forming up as had been intended to assault Hill 70.
The 1st Battalion Welsh Guards were sent to reinforce this latter group. The 2nd Guards Brigade were already falling back from their attack but the initial rush of Hill 70 at 18:00 went well but approaching the top many guardsmen were scythed down by machine gun fire. The men got close to the barbed wire protecting the German redoubt but it was clear that any further attempt to get to it was out of the question. At 23:00 the remainder of the battalion and the 2nd Bn.Scots Guards joined the men and the latter's commander ordered a withdrawal to a position 100 metres further back that would be defensible the following morning. The following day the bulk of the battalion were ordered to dug in on
the corner of the village of Loos & scattered groups of men still in the front line with other battalions were brought back together. The battalion was relieved on September 29th. The unit's war diary on that date states that their casualty list was 11 officers and about 400 other ranks.
Harry Fletcher had survived but his right arm was shattered. The men who were killed fighting alongside him are listed below, they included Albert Humphreys an Oldham man who had been born in Royton. He is commemorated on Oldham's War Memorial.

ABBOTT JOSEPH 41 Private 20947 from Merstham,Surrey
ASTLE ALBERT Private 13846    
BACON THOMAS 19 Private  19873 from London
BARKER SYDNEY 22 Private 20923 from London
BENNETT THOMAS 23 Private 20361    
BLAIR WILLIAM Private 21299    
BRANDON JAMES 22 Private 19007 from Stafford
BREAKWELL HAROLD 20 Private 19975 from Long Easton,Notts
BURRELL FRANK 26 Private 20198 from Uckfield,Sussex
CARSON EDWARD 27 Serjeant 12203 from Birkenhead
CLACK HUBERT Private 21237    
COLES JOHN 19 Lance Corporal 17077 from Gloucestershire
COOPER HENRY 32 Private 21350 from Stoke-on-Trent
CORRIGAN GEORGE 22 Private 20200 from Wigan
DAYKIN MOSES 31 Private 20461 from Yorkshire
DOOLEY T Private 20651    
FARTHING THOMAS Private  20948    
FELL CHRISTOPHER 24 Private 21497 from Nottinghamshire
FOSTER HENRY Private 16438    
FOWLER GEORGE Private 20362    
FRANKLIN FREDERICK Lance Corporal 15994    
FULLMAN  STANLEY 19 Private 20093 from Kent
GAMBRILL FRANK 23 Private 21322 from London
GARDNER  HARRY Private 21154    
GODMAN WALTER 19 Private 21545  from London
GREEN ARTHUR Serjeant 11440    
HALL HARRY 23 Private 21570 from Newark
HAWKES HAROLD Private 16161    
HAWKINS REGINALD 28 Private 19715 from Yeovil
HENSHALL WILLIAM 39 Private 21222 from Liverpool
HEYWOOD  FRANK 29 Private 21265    
HOCKING  JOHN 29 Private 19591    
HODSON WILLIAM 22 Private 20276    from Leigh
HOUSTOUN-BOSWALL Sir GEORGE 37 Captain from London
HOWARTH FREDERICK Private 20435    
HUDDLESTONE FRANK 27 CSM 11771  from Nottinghamshire
HUMPHREYS ALBERT 25 Private 21209 born Royton,lived Oldham
HURDUS ARTHUR 35 Private 19532    
JACKSON HENRY Corporal 19226    
JAMES ERNEST 23  Private  21059 from Suffolk
JAMES ERNEST Private 15932 from Gloucestershire
KEIGHTLEY WILLIAM 34 Private 10938 from Bletchley
KING SYDNEY 20 Private 21340    
KIRKPATRICK JOHN Private 20204    
KNIGHT THOROLD 23 Private 20749 from Chesterfield
LANGFORD FREDERICK Lance Corporal 14754    
LANGLEY  CHARLES Private 23764    
LEE HENRY Private 18195    
LIGHTWOOD CECIL 27 Private 20576 from Shropshire
LITCHFIELD ERNEST 25 Private 12761 from Burton on Trent
LOWE P Private  21597    
MAKER FRANCIS Private 19947    
MARSDEN  SAMUEL 18 Private 16217 from Weston-Super-Mare
McNEIL WILLIAM 21 Private 19690 from Whitby
MICKLEWRIGHT CECIL Private 20920    
OLDHAM ARTHUR Private 20214    
PERKINS  WILLIAM 33 Private 20570 from Sale Green
PERRYMAN JOHN 23 Private 22202 from Monmouthshire
PIKE THOMAS Private 19812    
PONSONBY The Hon. CYRIL 34 MVO Major son of 8th Earl of Bessborough
RICE ERNEST 20 Private 22016 from Tewkesbury
RIMMINGTON JOSEPH 20 Private 21605 from Derbyshire
ROSCOE WILLIAM 28 Private 19070    from Liverpool
RUSSELL RICHARD Private  22027    
RYDER STANLEY 22 Lance Serjeant 17577 from Bury
SMITH CHARLES 20 Private 20743 from Stroud
STAPLES  EDGAR Private 20779    
STONE WILLIAM 20 Private 16267 from Herne Bay
STRATTON ERNEST 20 Private 20629 from London
STREET B Lance Serjeant  12062    
TALBOT FRED 30 Private 20169 from Hanley,Staffs
THORNE THOMAS Captain        
TOMPSON ALAN 35  Second Lieutenant        
TURLEY THOMAS 22 Private 20191 from Wigan,parents lived in Chadderton
WADESON WILLIAM  Private 20649    
WARD ARTHUR 19 Drummer  15439 from Bristol
WARREN MAJOR 21 Private  20117 from Southend
WATT GEORGE Lance Serjeant 15814    
WHITE HARRY 30 Private 13231 from Leek
WILDGOOSE WILLIAM 18 Private 20797 from Manchester
WILLIAMSON THOMAS 24 Private 20935 from Norfolk
WRIGHT ROBERT Private 20321    
YATES GEORGE 22  Private  21286 from Chesterfield

Harry eventually found himself in the Fifth Red Cross Hospital at Wimereux near Boulogne. He wrote to his wife:

"My shoulder was absolutely smashed, besides my arm being broken. When I get to England I suppose I shall remain there, for I shall not be fit to be sent to the front again"

A matron also wrote to Alice to say that Harry had been lucky not to lose the arm and was a "very good, plucky and brave patient." While in hospital the Queen of Portugal visited his ward and spoke with him. she gave him a lavender bag and said that in future he would salute her again at Buckingham Palace as he had done on a previous occasion.
Eventually came the time for Harry to be repatriated back to England and he was one of c.390 injured officers and men put aboard the hospital ship Anglia at Boulogne which was to sail to Dover.

Hospital Ship Anglia sinking in the English Channel on November 17th,1915 © IWM