Hopkins, Harold. Died 14th Jul 1916

Harold Hopkins is recorded by the CWGC as the son of ‘Mrs Edith E Hunt of 99 Victoria Street New Bilton Rugby’.

In 1891, his mother, Edith Hopkins was a 19 year old servant in Coventry.   She was born in 1872 in Broadwell, Warwickshire. It seems that she had two sons before she married Harry Hunt, in late 1899 – the marriage being registered in Rugby.

The 1901 census confirmed Edith Hunt’s marriage with Harry Hunt, who was born in Gloucestershire and was a ‘Bricklayer’s labourer’. They are recorded with two ‘sons’ with the Hopkins name: Harold’s slightly older brother, Leonard, who was born in Bilton in about 1898; and Harold, who was born in Leeds a year later in about 1899. They were now living in Bakehouse Lane, Bilton.   There was now also a baby daughter, Amelia E J Hunt, and there were three further daughters, Beatrice, Rose and Selina before 1911.

By 1911, the family had moved to live at 99 Victoria Street, New Bilton, Rugby. Harry Hunt was a ‘Labourer’ for ‘Engineers’. He and Edith had been married for 11 years and the six children were all still living. Harold was still at school.

The CWGC record shows that Harold Hopkins joined the 1st/7th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as No:4345[1]. His Medal Card does not give the date when he went to France.

1/7th Battalion was raised in Coventry in August 1914 as part of the Warwickshire Brigade, South Midland Division. They moved to the Chelmsford area, in August 1914. The South Midland Division spent many months in England training until 13 March 1915 when it was warned to prepare for overseas service to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front which had suffered heavy casualties in the winter of 1914-1915.

On 13 May 1915, it became part of the 143rd Warwickshire Brigade, in the 48th (South Midland) Division. They landed at Le Havre on 22 March 1915.

After training at Bailleul went into the trenches in that district. In July they were sent south to Courcelles, and after further training went again into the trenches near Hebuterne before Gommecourt. In that district, with billets at Fonquevillers, they remained till June 1916.[1]

The Division was involved in the Serre Sector of the Somme from 1-12 July 1916 and the Battle of Pozières.

Harold probably went into the French theatre of war with his Battalion on 22 March 1915, or possibly, as he does not seem to have been awarded the 1915 Star, somewhat later in early 1916 as part of ‘reinforcement’. On 1 July 1916, the …

The British attack on July 1, 1916, … the north of the British line … [included the] 48th and 4th Divisions, with the four Warwickshire Territorial battalions in the 143rd Brigade, … Its line faced Serre and Beaumont Hamel … the 48th Division was in reserve, with the exception of the 143rd Brigade, which was attached for that day to the 4th Division. … In the 143rd Brigade the 5th and 7th Royal Warwickshire were to hold the trenches, whilst the other two battalions attacked towards Serre. … the 5th and 7th, which suffered only from artillery fire, the casualties were comparatively slight.

In the northern region the 5th and 7th Royal Warwickshire remained in the front trenches till 4 July, … Meantime a steady advance had prepared the way for the assault of the second German position on a line from Longueval to Ovillers. The 48th Division had now returned to the line and was in a position near Ovillers. The assault was delivered on 14 July just before dawn.[2]

From the positions occupied during the day, an advance from the left side of Bazentin le Petit Wood, along the second position trenches towards Pozières, offered the possibility of an attack from three sides.   The 10th Cheshires tried a daylight attack on Ovillers but was repulsed by machine-gun fire and the 1/7th Royal Warwicks (48th Division), tried to exploit the success of the 3rd Worcesters and its attacking companies, in spite of heavy casualties, reached their objective, which they held for several hours till forced by enfilading shell-fire to fall back. The Cheshires attacked again at 11:00 p.m. and captured the objective but casualties were so high that they had to withdraw.[3],[4]

Harold Hopkins was ‘Killed in Action’, aged only 17, sometime during 14 July 1916, probably during the assault on Orvillers and Bazentin. His body was not found or identified and he is remembered on Pier and Face 9A, 9B, and 10B, of the Thiepval Memorial.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932.

He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and also at the Croop Hill cemetery, Rugby




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This article on Harold Hopkins was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, June 2016.

[1]       http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?/topic/8768-royal-warwickshire-regiment/

[2]       http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?/topic/8768-royal-warwickshire-regiment/

[3]         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Bazentin_Ridge, from Miles, W. (1992) [1938]. Military Operations France and Belgium, 1916: 2nd July 1916 to the End of the Battles of the Somme. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence II, p.88, Imperial War Museum & Battery Press ed., London: Macmillan, ISBN:0901627763.

[4]       http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?/topic/8768-royal-warwickshire-regiment/

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