Garner, Henry. Died 22nd May 1918

Being listed on the Memorial Gates as ‘H GARNER’, and with no obvious Rugby connections, it seemed that this soldier would remain unidentified, until a report in the Rugby Advertiser[1] was found showing that whilst he was from a Northampton family, before the war he was working as a driver for the Co-op in Rugby.

For this reason this biography could not be posted on the 100th Anniversary of his death, but is posted now, a month later, and will be placed in order in the record in due course, so that he can be remembered.

Henry Garner was born in Harlestone, near Daventry, Northamptonshire in about 1889.  He was the son of John Garner, a ‘horse waggoner’ born in about 1853 in Thurleigh, Bedfordshire, and his first wife, Elizabeth, who was also born there in about 1857.

They had seven children, born between 1879 and 1891: their approximate dates of birth being: Mary Anne Garner, 1879; Thomas Garner, 1880; John E Garner, 1882; Amy Garner, 1884; Nellie Garner, 1886; Henry/Harry Garner, 1889  and Herbert ‘Bertie’ Garner, 1891.

Over this period the family moved to Bolnhurst in about 1880 and then to Harlestone about two years later.  They were in the Brixworth registration district and an eighth child, a girl, Elizabeth Agnes Garner, was registered in early 1894, and it seems that her mother, aged 37, died during, or as a result of childbirth; and baby Elizabeth Agnes also died a short while later, her death being registered before the end of 1894.

The widower father, Henry Garner, married again with another Elizabeth – Elizabeth Butler – in later 1896.  She was born in Haresfield, Gloucestershire in about 1869, and was thus some twelve years younger than the first Elizabeth Garner.  By 1901 there were three more younger children in the house from this second marriage, although the two eldest children were no longer at home.  In 1901, Henry – known as Harry – was 12 and working as a ‘stable boy – groom’.  His father was a ‘farm carter’.

At some date between 1901 and 1911, although no record has been found, it seems that Henry’s father died, leaving his second wife a widow.

By 1911, Henry’s widowed [step] mother was working as a ‘laundress’.  She was still living at ‘Harleston’, at 85 Upper Harlestone, Harlestone, with four children.  However, with his father now dead, Henry was correctly listed as a ‘step-son’, which was the initial confirmation that his father had married twice; that there were two separate ‘Elizabeths’; and that Henry was a son from his father’s first marriage.  Henry was now 22, the oldest sibling still at home and listed as an ‘Estate labourer’.

Although the information was not needed of a widow, and had been deleted by ‘officials’, his step-mother stated that she had been married 14 years and three of her four children were still living.  This also confirmed the second marriage date in about 1896 or 1897.  When the child who died had been born is unknown at present.

As noted, just before the war, Henry ‘… was employed by the Rugby Co-operative Society as a motor lorry driver’.[2]  It also appears that between 1911 and his death, he had married, as his gratuities after the war were paid to his widow, Emma.  That marriage has not yet been found nor any trace of Emma.

With the outbreak of war, Henry Garner enlisted in Rugby,[3]

Employees of the Rugby Co-operative Society who have enlisted are: … H Garner, …’.[4]

He enlisted initially as a Private, No: 40945, in the Worcestershire Regiment, ‘early in the war’,[5] indeed in September 1914.  With no surviving military Service Record, it is impossible to outline his early service, but at some later date he was transferred or posted as No: 18071, or 4/18071, in the Corps of Hussars and was, at the time of his death, in the 8th Hussars (The King’s Royal Irish) Regiment.[6]

The 8th Hussars entered the trenches on the Western Front for the first time on 9 December 1914, not having arrived in time to take any part in the Retreat from Mons.  The first action that the 8th encountered was in December 1914 at the Battle of Givenchy.  The majority of their time was spent sending large parties forward to dig trenches and this continued for the whole of the war.  In May 1915, they took part in the Second battle of Ypres where the Germans first used chlorine gas.  In September 1915 the 8th Hussars transferred to the 2nd Indian Cavalry Division.  The majority of the casualties occurred from the unsanitary conditions of the trenches, the cavalry being held almost exclusively in reserve, waiting for ‘the gap’ constantly warned off, but never used.  In July 1916, the King’s Royal Irish Hussars fought at Bazentin, then Flers-Courcelette the following month, both battles being in the Somme area.  They returned to the Somme area in March 1917 to clear the small pockets of machine guns left by the retreating Germans.  They took part in what would be the Regiment’s last mounted charge at Villers-Faucon when B and D Squadrons, supported by a howitzer battery and two armoured cars, attacked a heavily defended German position.  B Squadron charged, then attacked on foot (the armoured cars were quickly put out of action) and drew the enemy’s fire.  D Squadron charged and captured the village with few casualties.  The Squadron Commander, Major Van der Byl was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for the action.  Two Maxim machine guns were captured in this action and have been used as guardroom adornments by the 8th Hussars and successor regiments since 1918.  During the German spring offensive of 1918, C Squadron under Captain Adlercron, defended the village of Hervilly until being forced to retreat, only to recapture it later that day at the loss of sixty-six casualties.

In March 1918, the 8th (Kings Royal Irish) Hussars were transferred to the 9th Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.  … The Germans began to collapse soon after the allies began their final offensive in August, the 8th fighting at St Quentin, Beaurevoir and Cambrai and the Pursuit to Mons.  On 11 November 1918 whilst camped at Maffles, the regiment heard that the Armistice had been signed.  The 8th Hussars had 105 soldiers killed and countless wounded throughout the four years of the war.

It is not known when Henry joined the 8th Hussars, but their War Diary is in the records of the 1st Cavalry Division.[7]  It seems that as cavalry, they were mainly ‘in reserve’ waiting to exploit a ‘breakthrough’.  They were much used in labouring, and digging trenches, and thus suffered far fewer casualties than the front line infantry.

From 16 May, they had been at FEBVIN PALFART and the weather had been fine and hot and the Squadrons exercised, and took part in a Regimental scheme in BOMY and received orders to move on 21 May.  This move from Bomy to Boufflers was of some 60kms – about 35 miles – just over an hour today by car, but some four days’ march in 1918.  They were well behind the front-lines, as they moved south-west, approximately midway between the main Allied headquarters at Montreuil, south of Boulogne-sur-Mer, and Arras and the front line.

21/5/18 – Marched at 9.0am [from FEBVIN PAFART] via ANVIN to WAVRANS.  Arrived 1.0pm.  Very hot.

22/5/18 – Marched at 9.0am via PIERREMONT-FILLIEVRES to BOUFFLERS.  Very hot march.  Arrived 3.0pm.  Accomodation not very good.

Having suffered the ‘very hot march’, it appears that the opportunity was taken to bathe in the river.  The incident was described in the Rugby Advertiser,
‘Pte H Garner was accidentally drowned on May 22nd whilst bathing in a river in France.  He was the first of the company to dive into the river, and was at once seized with cramp.  His officer and comrades dived in to save him, but he was carried away by a strong current, and was drowned.  Pte Garner was employed by the Rugby Co-operative Society as a motor lorry driver till he enlisted at the outbreak of the War.’[8]

There was no record of this incident in the War Diary, but as noted, Henry died on Wednesday, 22 May 1918, aged 29, drowned in the river L’Authie, at Boufflers.  He was buried in the nearby Boufflers Churchyard, near the north wall of the church.  Boufflers is a village some 17 miles from Abbeville.

When the temporary marker was replaced after the war by a CWGC gravestone, the inscription ‘Fond Memories Cling’ was added at his family’s request.  The CWGC record reads,

Boufflers Churchyard.  GARNER, Pte. Henry, 10871. 8th K.R.I. Hussars.  Drowned 22nd May 1918.  Age 29.  Husband of Emma Garner, of 15, St. James Square, St. James St., Northampton.  Near North wall of Church.

Henry’s grave is the only Commonwealth burial of the First World War in Boufflers churchyard.[9]

The Army ‘Register of Soldiers’ Effects’ suggests that a third payment of £17-10s, being his War Gratuity, was made to his Widow, Emma, on 5 June 1919, although any earlier ‘back pay’ payments are not specifically noted, although an item ‘A/C £2-2-11’ was included although not in the payments column.

Henry Garner was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and is also commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Henry GARNER was researched and written for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, June 2018.

[1]      Rugby Advertiser, 15 June 1918, also, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/15th-jun-1918-selling-ham-without-taking-coupons/.  Thanks to Christine Hancock for noticing that he was one of the ‘missing’ soldiers.

[2]      Rugby Advertiser, 15 June 1918, – and see above.

[3]      Ireland, Casualties of World War I, 1914-1922, The Committee of the Irish National War Memorial, Ireland’s Memorial Records, 1914-1918, 8 volumes, Dublin, Maunsel and Roberts, 1923.

[4]      Rugby Advertiser, 12 September 1914, and https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/12th-sep-1914-rugby-residents-sons/.

[5]      Rugby Advertiser, 15 June 1918, – and see above.

[6]      Ireland, Casualties of World War I, 1914-1922, The Committee of the Irish National War Memorial, Ireland’s Memorial Records, 1914-1918, 8 volumes, Dublin, Maunsel and Roberts, 1923.

[7]      The National Archives, UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Household Cavalry and Cavalry of the Line, 1st Cavalry Division, Piece 1115: 9 Cavalry Brigade (1915 – 1919).

[8]      Rugby Advertiser, 15 June 1918, also, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/15th-jun-1918-selling-ham-without-taking-coupons/.

[9]      Image from: https://www.ww1cemeteries.com/boufflers-churchyard.html. [Picture © Barry Cuttell].

 

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