the memorial to the 38th(Welsh Division) which faces Mametz Wood.c.4000 men were killed or injured over 6 days
Following the first few days fighting at the Battle of the Somme, the British had pushed the Germans back from the villages of Mametz & Fricourt and by July 5th the opposing armies were facing each other across a shallow valley to the south of Mametz Wood. The 38th (Welsh) Division were given the task of taking Mametz Wood no later than the morning of July 7th. To do so they would have to initially move downhill to the bottom of the valley and then uphill to attack the German positions in the wood. Any attackers would also face the problem of being hit by flanking fire from German units in two copses to the east - Flatiron and Sabot. The initial assault on July 7th failed with heavy casualties amongst the Welsh units, Richard Henry's 17th RWF were not involved in the fighting that day. The Welsh Division were to attempt again on July 10th, Richard's unit took quite a few casualties on the 9th though presumably through German artillery fire.
On the 10th, which was a very hot day with thick cloud and no wind the attack was launched on Mametz Wood after a 45 minute bombardment. The 17th RWF were not one of the initial assault units but were sent into the fighting in the afternoon.They reached the action at about 14:40 and helped to add fresh impetus to the attack of the 113th Brigade. By 18:30 Richard's battalion had reached to within 20-30 yards of the northern edge of the wood whilst other units had taken large areas of the wood itself.
Richard was one of the men of the 17th RWF killed that day. His parents back in Royton received official confirmation in late July/early August that they had lost a second son.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists the following men as dying alongside Richard that afternoon:
PHILLIPS WILLIAM 32 Private 27695 from Pembrokeshire
LEWIS WILLIAM 32 Private 25388 from Neath
BEAVAN GEORGE Private 27292
COUSINS HP Private 37161
EDWARDS JOHN 21 Private 34942 from Merioneth
GRIFFITH WATCYN Private 26402
JENKINS HEZEKIAH Private 26197
JONES JOHN 21 Private 26433 from Holywell
JONES THOMAS 23 Private 26336 from Wrexham
JONES WILLIAM 39 Lance Corporal 25244 from Wales
LOCK WILLIAM 20 Private 24224
OWEN GWALCHMAI Private 25242
OWENS JOHN 31 Private 36604 from Carnovonshire
PINNINGTON WJ 19 Private 37325 from Liverpool
ROUTLEDGE EDWARD Private 27903
Richard Henry was born in Manchester in 1895, the son of Thomas & Martha who were originally from Belfast and Stockport respectively. Richard's older brother was Thomas (see entry below) and younger siblings were Sarah, William & Martha. By 1898 the Henry family had settled in the Heyside area of Royton. The 1901 census found them at Hill Street, Heyside with Richard's father working as a Spindle Maker. They later moved to 30 Downing Street, the family being there in 1911. There is no sign of Richard or older brother Thomas in the 1911 census. The only Richard Henry of the right age,16, who was born in Manchester can be found at the Fylde Farm Reformatory School in Poulton le Fylde.
The Oldham Chronicle after his death reported that Richard had been an apprentice joiner at Messrs.S&J Smethurst in Royton. However,by the time he enlisted on May 18th 1915 he was living in Southwark in London and working as a labourer. His brother Thomas is listed as being killed the very next day. Richard enlisted in the 2nd London Welsh who were in fact the 18th Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The 2nd London Welsh had been formed in February 1915 and the month after Richard joined them they moved to Bangor. Shortly after in August 1915 they changed from being a Service Battalion to being a Reserve Battalion, essentially feeding troops to other units of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
It was Richard's turn to join a combat unit in March 1916, he left Folkestone on March 5th and was at the great training base at Etaples the next day. On March 17th he reached the 17th Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The 17th had been formed at Llandudno in February 1915 and recruited across North Wales. They had been in France since December of that year.
Date of Death:10/07/1916
Regiment:Royal Welsh Fusiliers
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 4 A.