Edgar Howarth: [Heath 1906–1912]

Edgar Howarth joined the Public Schools Battalion and was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. There was a mix up over the announcement of his death.

He was born on to Sam and Lavinia Howarth. His father was a farmer and they lived at 26 Union Street, Triangle. He had five siblings: Maurice, who was at Heath from 1903 to 1910, Harry, Herbert, Mary and Phyllis. He was at Heath from to , after which he went to Borough Road Training College, Isleworth, to do teacher training.

Service Record: he enlisted on , aged 21 years 104 days, in Halifax after qualifying as a teacher. His service record notes a qualification in French. His height was 5'8" and his weight 133 lb and he became No. 1923 Lance/Cpl 16th Battalion Middlesex Regiment (Public Schools). This was the Kitchener service battalion and it included many rugby footballers. From the battalion was attached to 100 Brigade, in 33rd Division, and based at Clipstone Camp (Nottinghamshire), moving again in August to Perham Down (Wiltshire). From it officially became part of the BEF. In , the 16th (Service) Battalion (Public Schools) joined 86 Brigade of the 29th Division. On he was promoted to Lance/Corporal. The Public Schools Battalion first saw action in the Battle of the Somme.

On the first day on the Somme, , the battalion was in the supporting wave during the division’s attack on Beaumont Hamel. The Public Schools Battalion advanced into withering German machine gun fire. A few men reached the German barbed wire but got no further. Most were cut down or trapped in no man’s land. After nightfall those that were pinned down near the German wire were rounded up and made prisoners of war. According to the unit war diary the Public Schools Battalion suffered 524 casualties (killed, wounded and missing) on .

About 50 soldiers gathered in a trench with sandbagged shelters in the background
The Public Schools Battalion at ‘White City’

Fate: he went missing on and may have died in captivity. The best guess is that he was one of the men rounded up and was captured badly wounded.

From an article compiled by the Halifax Great War Heritage Society for the Courier :

Alive or Not!

The Howarth family of 26 Union Street Triangle received intimation that their son Lance Corporal Edgar Howarth of the Middlesex Regiment was missing. Hopes must have been raised when they received a further letter on saying “your son has arrived here and he is quite well.” It seems that this was an unfortunate case of indefinite information. Coincidentally their other son, Harry Howarth, had arrived at the front at this time and he was probably the subject of the second letter. The records show that Lance Corporal Edgar Howarth had indeed been killed on July 1 and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

He was posthumously awarded the 1914–15 Star.

With thanks to David Millichope