Cecil Henton was born in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and his birth was registered there in the second quarter of 1896. He was the son of Edward George Henton and his wife, Eleanor. Cecil and his parents moved to Rugby in about 1900 where another son and then four daughters would be born. In 1901 the family was living at 6 Railway Villas, Railway Terrace, Rugby and Cecil’s father was a ‘Goods Agent, Railway’.
In 1911, Cecil when was 15, he was still living with his parents, but they were now at 50 Newbold Road, Rugby. He was already working as a Railway Clerk, as was his father. The family would later move to 235 Railway Terrace, Rugby, which address was noted in the military records.
Cecil enlisted at Southam as a Private, No.16787, in the 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. With only the minimum details on his Medal Card and no surviving Service Record, it is difficult to reconstruct Cecil’s service history. His service number can be compared to similar numbers and it seems likely that he joined up in about December 1915. Several men had joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment from Rugby in November, one of whom had the slightly earlier number 15720.
The 15th Battalion (2nd Birmingham) Royal Warwickshire Regiment had been formed in Birmingham by the Lord Mayor and a local Committee in September 1914. The Battalion moved to Sutton Coalfield and then in June 1915 to Wensleydale to join the 95th Brigade of the 32nd Division and later moved to Salisbury Plain.
On 21 November 1915 the Battalion mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne, and on 14 January 1916 transferred to 13th Brigade in the 5th Division. At this date Cecil was probably still under training. In March 1916, the Division took over a section of front line near Arras, between St Laurent Blangy and the southern edge of Vimy Ridge. When the offensive opened on the Somme on 1 July 1916, the 5th Division was enjoying a period of rest and re-fit and was in GHQ Reserve. However, this restful time was not destined to last and in July 1916 they moved some 50 miles south to reinforce the Somme.
The 5th Division was involved in the attacks on High Wood, which had begun on 14 July and went on until mid-September. Then from 3 to 6 September 1916, the 5th Division was involved in the Battle of Guillemont, a village to the south of Delville Wood, where here was fierce fighting and many casualties.
It seems probable that Cecil was wounded during one of these battles prior to 9 September 1916, and he was evacuated to the British Military Hospital No. 2 at Quai d’ Escale, Le Havre.
During the First World War, Le Havre was the No.1 Base and by the end of May 1917, contained three general and two stationary hospitals, and four convalescent depots. Part of the No.2 Hospital was built above the station on the Quai d’Escale, and another section was in the Casino Lechin, still in all its pre-war grandeur!
The French records note that Cecil ‘died of wounds’ at three o’clock in the evening, on 9 September 1916. He was buried in the nearby Ste. Marie Cemetery, Le Harve, in Grave Reference: Div.3. F.4. His headstone was later inscribed with the words ‘Thy will be done’.
The Ste. Marie Cemetery is one of the town cemeteries, but it is actually situated in the commune of Graville-St. Honorine, overlooking Le Havre from the north. The first Commonwealth burials took place in Division 14 of Ste Marie Cemetery in mid August 1914. Burials in Divisions 19, 3, 62 and 64 followed successively.
Cecil was awarded the British War and Victory medals, he would have arrived in France too late to receive the 1915 Star.
His father received £3-13-9d on 22 December 1916, and then a £3-0-0 ‘gratuity’ on 6 October 1919.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
This article on Cecil Henton 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, September 2016.