Herbert Henry READ was born in 1890 in Rugby and baptised on 23 April 1890 at St Andrew’s Church, Rugby. He was the son of Silvanus, b.1863, and Sarah, b.1867 née Getliff, Read of 87 Wood Street, Rugby. He had a younger sister, Elsie Winifred Read, born 23 July 1894 in Rugby, who died in Rugby in 1971.
In 1891 the family was at 19 Oxford Street, Rugby; by 1901 they had moved to 11 Wood Street, Rugby, and by 1911 they were at 87 Wood Street, Rugby, he was a Railway Clerk. Herbert’s father died on 13 November 1916 not so very long before his son Hubert.
At some date, possibly earlier in the war, Herbert enlisted at Rugby in the 1/6th Territorial Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as Private No.242564.
The 1/6th Royal Warwicks was stationed at Thorp Street, Birmingham at the outbreak of war. The Battalion was part of the Warwickshire Brigade of the South Midland Division and later moved to Chelmsford. On 22 March 1915 they mobilised for war and landed at Havre where on 13 May 1915 the formation became the 143rd Brigade, 48th (South Midland) Division and engaged in various actions on the Western Front.
In common with many Royal Warwicks Medal Cards for those who went to France after 1915, and were thus not eligible for the 1915 Star, there is no date given for his ‘entry into theatre’. It is assumed that Herbert was with the Battalion when it mobilised.
During 1916 the Division was involved with the Battle of Albert, the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, the Battle of Pozieres Ridge, the Battle of the Ancre Heights, and the Battle of the Ancre, although the 1/6th were probably not involved in all of these actions.
The New Year 1917 brought a period of severe weather conditions on the Somme which led to an unofficial ‘truce’ between the two sides, although routine actions in the trenches carried on. In February the Battalion alternated between duty in the trenches at Biaches, on the west bank of the Somme, and the reserve at Eclusier some six miles to the west of Biaches and the front line.
On 1 March 1917 the Battalion was again ‘In the Reserve’ at ‘Eclusier’. They were there for a week, but still had casualties when providing men for working parties. On 7 March the Battalion received eight ‘OR’ [Other Rank] reinforcements and that night moved back to their ‘old section’ positions at Biaches where they relieved the 1/8th Worcesters. On the evening of 8 March, …
‘Raid carried out by A Co at 9 p.m. Bombardment by heavies for 10 minutes before zero – Barrage from zero to +10 then forming a box – party in trenches 15 mins – 3 prisoners (one died) & one machine gun – estimate over 30 Germans killed. Casualties OR 1 killed, 2 wounded & missing – 13 wounded (one remained at duty).’
On 9 March the Battalion was still ‘In trenches. Casualties OR 3K 5W.’ One of those three killed was Herbert Henry Read and whilst his ‘C’ Company had not been involved in the raid the night before, he was probably killed by retaliatory shelling the day after the raid. The two other soldiers who were also killed that day were probably Corporal A E Bayliss MM, No.240105; and Lance Corporal J Baker, No.242855.
All three men were originally buried near to where they had been in action, in Kiboko Wood Cemetery, Biaches, at map reference 62c. H. 35. b, 9. 9., where the original graves were marked with crosses. That small cemetery was by a small copse between Biaches and Flaucourt, where 30 United Kingdom soldiers were buried by the 40th Division in February and March, 1917. All but one belonged to the Royal Warwicks, and twenty of these to the 1st/6th Battalion.
The bodies in this cemetery were later ‘concentrated’, i.e. moved, to the Assevillers New British Cemetery where Herbert Read was reburied in Plot: III. C. 7. Assevillers is a village approximately 6 miles south-west of Peronne, and some 5 miles from Biaches. The village had been taken by the French in the autumn of 1916.
Herbert was awarded the Victory and British medals.
He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and also on a family headstone in Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on Herbert Henry Read 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, November 2016.
 Scottish National Library, Map ref: 62C.NW, Scale: 1:20000, Edition:4A, Published: January 1917, Trenches corrected to 8 January 1917.