1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment.

Born 1882   Died Tuesday 3 November 1914. Aged 31.

Son of Mrs. Eliza Tidey (formerly Peacock), (née Richardson) and of the late William Sutton Peacock.   Husband of Sarah Ann Taylor (formerly Peacock), (née Farndell) of Middle Park Farm, Church Lane, Aldington.

Commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Berks Cemetery Extension, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium. Panel 6 .

Born in Arundel, Sussex, Henrys’ birth was recorded in the East Preston, Sussex Registration District during the third quarter of 1882.

At the time of enlisting in the army as a regular soldier on Tuesday 15 November 1904 in Chichester, Sussex, and signing up for a term of  9 years with the Colours, and 3 years in the Reserve, in reply to the question on the army enlistment form (B.217), asking if Henry had a preference regarding which regiment or corps he wished to serve in, Henry had replied the East Lancashire Regiment.  This quite unusual as most volunteers from the area, who wished to serve in the infantry, had not surprisingly requested to serve in the local regiment, the Royal Sussex Regiment.

Henry also stated that he was aged 22, born at Arundel, and was employed as a Groom by Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) Charles R.A. Leslie J.P., at Slindon House, Slindon, Arundel, Sussex.

As instructed Henry joined the East Lancashire Regiment at the Regimental Depot, Fulwood Barracks, Preston, Lancashire on Wednesday 23 November 1904. Henry remained at the Regimental Depot until being posted to the 1st Battalion of his regiment on Friday 3 March 1905; he then served in that battalion until being transferred to the 2nd Battalion for service in India on Wednesday 20 September 1905. Most of Henry’s time spent serving in India was at Poona, Karachi and Mhow. On Saturday 18 April 1908, Henry was appointed a Lance Corporal, but on Saturday 28 November 1908, at his own request he reverted to the rank of Private.

In 1911 most of the officers and other ranks of the 2nd Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment left India for service in South Africa. Prior to Henry leaving India he had signed a document dated Friday 3 November 1911, stating it was with his agreement that he was willing to be transferred to the Army Reserve prematurely, and to being returned to the United Kingdom.

During the time that Henry spent in England as a civilian, he married 35 year old Miss Sarah Ann Farndell at the parish church of St. Matthew, Brixton, Surrey on Tuesday 23 December 1913. At the time of his marriage, Henry was employed as a Farrier and living at 7 Barnwell Road, Brixton, which is also where he and Sarah resided after their marriage. Prior to marrying Henry, Sarah, who was born at Sheerness, Isle of Sheppey, Kent on Sunday 10 November 1878, and was the daughter of Shipwright, Charles Henry Farndell, had resided at 18 Cranley Gardens, South Kensington, London, S.W.7.

On Wednesday 5 August 1914, it being the day after Great Britain had declared war with Germany, Henry was recalled to the Colours and mobilised at Preston, Lancashire. The following day he was posted to the 1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment. Doubtless most, or possibly all of the men whom Henry had sailed back from India with in November 1911, met up again at the time of the recall to their regiment and commencement of the Great War. Part of the 11th Brigade, 4th Division, the 1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment was stationed at Colchester, Essex, which is where Henry and the other reservists joined it, prior to going to Harrow with the battalion on Tuesday 18 August 1914. From Harrow the battalion went to Southampton and sailed for France aboard the 17,000 ton ship SS Braemar Castle on Saturday 22 August 1914.  It being a mere 18 days after Great Britain’s declaration of war, the battalion arriving at the busy French port of Harve, Seine-Maritime later the same day, led by a much respected commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Louis St. Gratien Le Marchant D.S.O.

From the time of Henrys’ battalion arriving in France until his death near the Belgian hamlet of Le Gheer, on the Warneton to Ploegsteert road, close to the French border, it was forced to make many changes of location due to rapidly changing operational requirements. They saw action in the early skirmishes of the Great War that included being caught up in the Retreat from Mons and the battles on the Marne, where the Allied forces finally halted the German onslaught.

On Sunday 1 November 1914, the 1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment was subjected to  attack by German trench mortars. The following day, enemy infantry attacked the battalion position during which time Drummer (later Regimental Sergeant Major) Spencer John Bent took part command of one part of the line after all of the officers were lost. He received the first Victoria Cross to be awarded to a member of the East Lancashire Regiment in the Great War. Unusually, the citation does not record a single event, but a whole series of actions in and around Le Gheer, Belgium, in late October and early November 1914, any one of which might have justified the award. The citation for his Victoria Cross says: “For conspicuous gallantry near Le Gheer on the night of the 1st/2nd November 1914 when, after his Officer, Platoon Sergeant and Section Commander had been struck down, he took command and with great presence of mind and coolness, succeeded in holding the position. Drummer Bent had already distinguished himself on two occasions, 22nd and 24th of October, by bringing up ammunition under a heavy shell and rifle fire, and again on the 3rd November, when he brought into cover some wounded men who were lying exposed in the open.”

On Tuesday 3 November 1914 Henry and 14 of his comrades were all buried alive during an attack by a enemy trench mortar. Only two were dug out alive. A total of 23 personnel of Henry’s battalion lost their lives on the day that he was killed. Two of those who lost their lives that day are at rest at Lancashire Cottage Cemetery near Ploegsteert, which was begun by the 1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment (who have 84 graves in it) and the 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment (who have 56) in November 1914. The other 21 soldiers are all Commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.