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Herbert Smalley was born in Lostock Hall on 11 October 1892 and baptised at Farington St Paul’s on 18 December.  His father was John Smalley (b. 1865 in Penwortham), a locomotive engine driver.  His mother was Elizabeth Ann Ratcliffe (b. 1861 in Preston).  John and Elizabeth were married in 1889.  Their first daughter, Mary Ethel (b. 1891) died before her first birthday, and the couple had four more children: Herbert, then Cecil (b. 1897), Ivy Maria (b. 1898) and Harold (b. 1900).  In 1911, the family lived in Dilworth Street, Lostock Hall, at which time Herbert was working in the mill as a cotton tuber but by the time he enlisted in September 1914 he had started working as a locomotive engine cleaner and the family had moved to 11 Hoghton Street, Lostock Hall.


Herbert enlisted on 1 September 1914, aged 21yrs 11mths, joining 7Bn, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.  He was 5’8” tall, weighed 129lbs, had dark hair, dark eyes, and 36” chest.  He is not listed in databases of the “Preston Pals” but he was recruited at the same time to the same battalion.  The photograph shows Preston men recruited to the 7Bn marching down the ramp towards Preston railway station on their way to Tidworth Barracks to commence training in September 1914.

preston pals.jpg

Herbert remained in training until July 1915, qualifying as a machine gunner.  During training, in March 1915, he was found to be absent without leave and confined to barracks for 3 days.  With the battalion at full strength (30 officers and 900 other ranks), they left for France on 16 July 1915.  Initially, the battalion was engaged in training and preparation for trench warfare and were in reserve during the Battle of Loos in September.  Throughout the rest of the year and the first half of 1916, the battalion was shunted around the front, eventually ending up between Albert and La Boisselle for the opening of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916.  From 1-7 July, with just one day’s rest, the Battalion was engaged in the intense fighting of the Battle but the hoped-for breakthrough failed to occur.  After another brief rest, on 23 July the battalion was ordered into the attack again along the salient from High Wood through Delville Wood to Guillemont in an attempt to dislodge the Germans from their dominant position.  The attack was a failure and a very costly one: 11 officers and 290 men were killed, wounded or missing; of these, 70 men were killed including Herbert Smalley, who was 23 years old.


The map shows 7Bn's attack on 23 July 1916.


Herbert’s service record says he was missing presumed dead on or after 23 July 1916, but his body must have been found some time later, as he now has a grave.


Following his death, Herbert’s medals and effects totalling £4 6s 3d were returned to his father, who also received the War Gratuity of £8 10s.


Rank: Private

Service No: 12484

Date of Death: 23/07/1916

Regiment: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 7th Bn.

Grave Reference: VI. H. 28.


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