Corporal Herbert Heaton

Corporal Herbert Heaton, B Company, 2/6th Battalion, Duke of
Wellington's (West Riding Regiment). Service No: 267181.

A British Army soldier of the Great War. He is wearing uniform but no cap. On his shoulder is a brass badge of the West Riding Regiment.

Private Herbert Heaton - before he was promoted to Corporal.

Early life:

Herbert was born in 1890, registered in Keighley to parents Robert and Isabella.
Next year in the census he was living at 22, Commercial Street with his parents and Robert was a woolcombing overlooker.
Their situation was unchanged in 1911, but Herbert now had a sister, Edith May, and two brothers, Joseph and Arthur. He was 21 in 1911 and his family were living at Aynholme, Oakworth, with the addition of another sister, Mary. Herbert's occupation by now was 'clerk to a textile machine maker.' Robert was now the manager of the woolcombing department for a local worsted manufacturer.

War service:

After war broke out Herbert enlisted at Haworth with the 2/6th Battalion West Riding Regiment. He left England at Southampton on 5th February 1916 and arrived in Le Havre the next day. Herbert is on the nominal roll as part of 'B' company. He was one of 27 men killed in action on 27th Nov 1917 and he has no known final resting place.

WO-95/3087-1/1 War diary of the 2/6th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment:

A war memorial panel shaped like a gravestone. It is grey-green granite and has 22 names inscribed.

The front of the Oakworth Great war Memorial.

1917. 25th November:
The Battalion left BERTINCOURT and relieved the elements of the 119 Infantry Brigade 40 Division in BOURLON WOOD at dusk. The line taken over was E18.a.9.9. to F7.c.1.4 to F7.d.7.2.
26th November:
The battalion worked very hard and dug quite a good line. At 7 pm the enemy put up a machine gun barrage and shelled the WOOD for 1, 1/2 hours.
27th November: 6.20 am:
The Brigade attacked the enemy position having the RAILWAY from F1.c.3.7. to F2.c.0.3. as it's objective. The 187 Infantry brigade were on the left & the Guards Division on the right.
The 2/8 West Yorkshire were attached to 186 Brigade for this operation. The Battalion attacked and took BOURLON but further progress was not made as the Battalion was not supported either on the left or right flanks. The village was held until 5 pm when the battalion returned and took up a position in BOURLON WOOD on the crest. This position commanded the village & a good field of fire was obtained.
During the day the enemy shelled BOURLON WOOD with very heavy guns thereby causing many casualties. 21 prisoners were captured during this attack. At dusk the battalion was relieved dismounted cavalry including Scots Gresy, 3 Hussars and 16 Lancers, and went into support. SW corner of the WOOD.
Captain B.S. Mann, Lieutenant F.S. Holland, 2nd Lieutenant A.F. Melton, 2nd Lieutenant A.J. Alexander were killed & Captain A Somerville, Captain J.T. Howell, 2nd Lieutenant N. Glass(?) and 2nd Lieutenant J.C. Sharples were wounded. 28 other ranks were killed & 137 wounded and missing.
[Herbert was one of the men killed or missing on this date.]

A white neon light string in the shape of a soldier with his head bowed in remembrance

Oakworth's Remembrance Light named 'Herbert' and dedicated to him and all the other men from Oakworth Village who died in wartime.

Keighley News report on page 3, Saturday 5th January 1918:

For some weeks now reports have reached Oakworth that Corporal Herbert Heaton, son of Councillor Robert and Mrs Heaton, Aynholme, had been killed in action. In the absence of official news it was hoped such a fate had not befallen him,but the official notification unfortunately came in the end and Oakworth has lost one of its most promising young men. Many tributes have been paid in letters received from France. Lance Corporal Arnold Hey says: "He died like a proper hero, leading the men of his platoon into battle." Private L Scott in a letter said: "I'm sorry to have to say that Herbert was killed in an action on November 27th. Our company attacked the enemy and he was among the first killed. He was shot through the head by a single bullet and died instantaneously without a single moments pain. We are sorry to lose him as he was very popular and respected by us all. I would like to tell you that Herbert died like a hero, well in front of his platoon" In the course of a letter of sympathy to Mr Heaton, Second Lieutenant Storey wrote: "He was a good soldier and very popular amongst the men, so his death is felt all the more keenly by us. It may be some small comfort to you to know he was killed instantaneously and suffered no pain, all the officers in the B Company send you their deepest sympathy." In private life Corporal Heaton was a clerk in the employ of Messrs. Prince Smith and Sons, having formerly held the Braithwaite scholarship for three years at the Keighley Trade and Grammar School. Up to enlistment he was secretary of the local Rechabite tent and of the Oakworth Cricket Club. He was also a useful member of the committee of the Mechanics Institute. Keen sympathy is felt in the neighbourhood with his bereaved parents, who have two more sons in the forces.

An oak board with carved tope and sides and a listed of names on the men of the church who died in the first world war

Slack Lane Baptist Church war memorial at Oakworth Community Hall.

Keighley News report on page 7, Saturday 5th January 1918:

A memorial service, held in the Slack Lane Baptist Chapel, and conducted bt the Rev. J. W. Raper on Sunday afternoon, was largely attended. In the person of Mrs. Midgley Bottomley the church has lost one of it's oldest and much respected members.
Corporal H. Heaton (killed in action) was also identified with the church, but his untimely death prevented his signature being affixed to the deeds. The service was most sympathetically conducted throughout, suitable hymns being sung, and selections played on the organ by Mr. J.E. Fearnside. Mr Raper paid warm tributes to the memory of the old lady full of years, and the young man full of promise. The public bodies with which Corporal Heaton had been identified were represented.


The family war memorial inscription to Herbert Heaton in Oakworth Cemetery.

Herbert is remembered on the Cambrai Memorial at Louverval. He was 28 years old.
Locally, He is remembered on the Oakworth War Memorial in Holden Park, the Slack Lane Baptist Church war memorial, and is listed in the Keighley Trade and Grammar School 'Keighlian' Magazine Roll of Honour.
He is named in a memorial inscription on the family gravestone in Oakworth Cemetery: Herbert Heaton. Born July 18th 1889, Killed in Action Nov. 26th 1917.

His mother Isabella Heaton unveiled the Oakworth War memorial in 1937. (His father, Robert Heaton had died in 1933).
Herbert's brothers Joseph and Arthur also served in WW1 and Joseph also served during WW2 in the Oakworth Home Guard.

In 2022 Oakworth Village created a Christmas light to go on a lampost opposite the park where our war memorial stands. It is affectionately named 'Herbert' after him and is shaped like a soldier in uniform with a steel helmet and his head bowed. He faces the war memorial from across the road. The remainder of the lights are switched on near to Christmas each year but Herbert's light will be illuminated before so it is on during Armistice and Remembrance Sunday to remind us all of the sacrifice made by the men of the village during wartime.

Information sources:

1891 England Census
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
UK, World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
WO-95/3087-1/1 War diary of the 2/6th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War
Oakworth cemetery - Family Headstone inscription
UK, Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
UK, WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
Keighley News archives at Keighley Library
'Oakworth Village Christmas Lights' volunteer, Mags Dearden.

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