This article appear in the Times newspaper, Friday 22nd June 2001 (written by Micheal Evans)

A Grimsby Chum who fell on battle's first day ?

Private's remains may be among 20 in Arras grave

Harry Boulton went to war with two of his brothers but he was the only one who died in action, one of 20 'Grimsby Chums' from the 10th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment who sacrificed their lives on the first day of the Battle of Arras, April 9, 1917.

Private Boulton came from a family of ten children who grew up in the village of Thorganby, near Grimsby, and with his brothers, Charles and Edward, he volunteered for the Great War.

His death at 21 brought to the Boulton family, in particular his father, Joseph, and his mother, Susan, that overwhelming sense of sadness and grief that so many families suffered during the First World War. The photograph of Private Boulton in his army uniform has remained a treasured possesion in the Boulton family.

Now, 84 years later, surviving members of the family are coming to terms with the possibility that the final resting place of their relative may have been found at last. The recently discovered skeletons of 20 British soldiers, lined up closely in an excavated burial ground in France and with their arms linked in comradship, have not been identified by name, but four 10th Battalion shoulder tiles were among the remains.

One of the bodies is probably that of Private Boulton, because he and his 19 fellow 'Grimsby Chums' all went missing , presumed dead, on that first day of the Battle of Arras. His is one of 20 names on the Arras Memorial to men who died on April 9. Another nine were killed the following day and a total of 67 'Grimsby Chums' are listed on the memorial as having died in the Battle of Arras.

As Peter Chapman, author of the Lincolnshire regimental history said, 'The fact that the 20 soldiers had their arms linked suggestes to me that they were all from the 10th Battalion and they all died on the first day.

Today there are four Harry Boultons in the family, all of whom were named in honour of their wartime relative. The memorabelia of Private Boulton take pride of place at the home of his niece, Elsie Kennedy, 77, who has looked after them since her Auntie Annie - Harry's last survivng sibling - at the age of 93 lat year. Yesterday Mrs Kennedy, who lives at Immingham near Grimsby, said, ' My Auntie never forgot the brother who died when she was only ten. She was always very sad about Harry's death and the fact that his body was never discovered while she was alive. If only this had happened last year, she would have been so hapy that his remains might at last have been found'.

Speaking at her home, surrounded by the memorabelia, including drawings that Private Boulton had done and a commemorative plaque, Mrs Kennedy said, 'Auntie Annie told me her mother used to be very plump but went thin after Harry died. My auntie remembered Harry with great affection. She often talked about all the fun they had when they were young'. She said that she and her aunt had visited the war grave at Vimy Ridge, not far from Arras ten years ago.

The 'Grimsby Chums' set off at 5.30am on the fateful first day of the Battle of Arras and by the end of it they had recaptured the strategic ridge and were able to look down on the enemy across the Douai plain in front of them. Despite the casualties, among them Private Boulton, it was deemed the most successful day of the war so far. Private Boulton was the third eldest of the ten children. Apart from Charles who joined the Navy and served with the Russian convoys, and Edward who was wounded at Gallipoli, there were four other brothers, Herbert, George, Percy and Albert, and three sisters, Annie, Mary and Emily. Joseph the father, was a farm worker who moved his family from Thorganby to the port town of Immingham at the start of the war in 1914 and began working in the docks.

Anothe relative, Stephen Boulton, 50, a great nephew, who also still lives in the same area, said ' My great uncle was one of thousands who died fighting for our freedom. Every street in Grimsby was affected'. The town of Grimsby lost its finest young men. About 1000 volunteered, queueing up at the town's recruiting office, and then went to Lord Yarborough's estate at Brocklesby to do basic training before being sent to the front. There is a memorial to the estimated 600 'Grimsby Chums' who never returned home.

Their first experience of war was in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, where 15 officers and 487 men were killed. Major General Richard Gerrard-Wright, president of the Old Comrades' Association of the Lincolnshire Regiment, said, 'that so many of the 'Grimsby Chums' were killed that they had to recruit from further afield to fill the gaps.

Peter Chapman siad that at the start of the battle on april 9, 1917, the soldiers of the 10th Battalion had been advancing under cover of a 'creeping' barrage. 'But one of the field guns was firing short and some of the battalion were killed, so it's possible that the 20 missing died from friendly fire'. The skulls of the skeletons found in France showed shell fragmnet damage. Just one shell fired short could have killed 20 soldiers.

The others listed on the Arras memorial as having gone missing that day are Lieutenant Willard Fleetwood Cocks, Corporal Henry Foulds, Corporal Charles Hall, Lance-corporal John Wickes and Privates Arthur Alcock, Thomas Bates, George Bedgood, William Easby, Robert Gould, Arthur Harris, Harry Holland, Lewis Holloway, Thomas Kirsopp, Jesse Larder, Percy Miles, Wilfred North, Charles Snewin, Edward Tasker, Maurice Venting and Sidney Woods.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commision has just completed a comprehensive inventory of each set of bones found in the grave site, and of the artifacts with them - scraps of uniform, bits of leather, boots, British buttons, four badges of the Lincolnshire Regiment. Those inventories will now be sent to Brigadier Roy Ratazzi, military attache at the British Embassy in Paris. The list of uncovered items will be referred to the Ministry of Defence's Casualty and Compassionate Cell, PS4, based in Wiltshire. If there is any evidence to identify the 20 bodies, only then will the relatives of Private Harry Boulton Know for sure whether he was one of those who died with 19 comrades, their arms linked in fellowship.

Postscipt Nov 2004 : Under the strict rules of the Ministry of Defence's Casualty and Compassionate Cell, the evidence to link the bodies to the Lincolns and Private Boulton was not strong enough to say for absolute certain. The remains were re-buried as 'Unkown' and therefore the names of Private Boulton and the rest of the Lincolns remain 'missing'.

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