Harold Bentley Winter

lincolnshire regimental badgePrivate, 10888, 7th (Service) Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, died of wounds, 5th July 1916 aged 23

Born at Rawcliffe in 1893, the brother of Arthur and Harry, Harold was one of the fourteen children of George and Sarah Hannah Winter (nee Thorley). His father was from Ealand and his mother from Crowle. In 1901 the family were living in Gas Road and by 1911 had moved to Coronation Terrace, North Street, where his father worked at the Peat Works and Harold was a general labourer.

Harold seems to have been the first of the Winter brothers to join the army, enlisting in the Lincolnshire Regiment, at Scunthorpe on 31st August 1914. did his initial training with the 6th (Service) Battalion at Lincoln but prior to them moving to Bovington in September he was posted to 7th (Service) Battalion and arrived in France with them on 14th July 1915.

Harold served with the 7th Lincoln’s throughout their full tour of the Ypres sector in 1915 – 1916, including the raid on The Bluff which claimed the life of Albert Broderick. In July 1916 they were in reserve near Heilly on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, moving up to the front line that evening to relieve the 6th Dorsets, who had suffered heavy casualties in the failed attack on the village of Fricourt.

It was learnt from prisoners that the German’s were evacuating Fricourt, so the 17th Division was ordered to capture the village, and the wood beyond, the next morning, 2nd July. The village was in a ruinous condition, but clearing its cellars and deep dug-outs took some time. Soon after noon the objective had been completed and the Lincolnshire’s spent the rest of the day clearing the remaining defenders from Fricourt Wood.

With the village now secure the next objective was to clear the trenchesĀ  around it. TheĀ  7th Lincoln’s along with the 8th South Staffordshire Regiment, were given the objective of clearing a trench known as Crucifix Trench, which lay west of and parallel to the road from Fricourt to Contalmaison.

The morning of 3rd July was a bright and sunny when at 9.00am the bombing parties of the 7th Lincoln’s, led the attack on the north end of Crucifix Trench. As soon as it was seen that they were in it and bombing down it, the rest of the battalion, with the South Staffordshire’s on their left, dashed out from Fricourt Wood, across an area of open ground and into the trench. The rush was met by a hail of rifle and machine-gun fire, but in spite of casualties, the two battalions poured in over the trench, driving the defenders back. As the enemy was driven out a number of them were seen trying to escape along a communication trench towards Shelter Wood. The Lincolnshire bombers cut in on their line of retreat, and drove them back into the advance of the Staffords. Thus caught, some hundreds of a Prussian infantry regiment, including their Colonel, surrendered.

In securing all their objectives, the 7th Lincoln’s also took about nine
hundred prisoners, two field-guns, two machine-guns and a large quantity of German stores. However this had come at a cost. Thirty three men were killed and one hundred and sixty six wounded or missing.

At some point during the attack on Crucifix Trench, Harold Winter received a gunshot wound in the abdomen. Treated initially by the Royal Army Medical Corps, 64th Field Ambulance from there he was transferred to 36 Casualty Clearing Station in Heilly. Here on 5th July 1916, Harold died of his wounds. He is buried in Heilly Station Cemetery.

Shortly after Harold’s death his parents received a letter of condolence from his platoon commander, 2nd Lieutenant Edgar who wrote:

‘Please accept my sincerest sympathy, along with that of my platoon, in the death of your son, from wounds received in action. It is cruel, this war, but it is through brave men such as your son was that Great Britain will eventually gain her freedom, which we all hope will come at no distant date.’

A memorial service was held for Harold at the Primitive Methodist Chapel in August 1916. He is commemorated on the plaque to former members of the congregation and Sunday School in Crowle Methodist Chapel and is also commemorated with his brothers on their parent’s headstone in Crowle Cemetery.

A fourth Winter brother, William, was in the army when war broke out and served throughout the conflict.