Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Henry Waters

Henry Waters :

Henry Waters : (L to R) Military Cross; Distinguished Conduct Medal; 1914 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) Military Cross; Distinguished Conduct Medal; 1914 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

Henry was born on Christmas Day 1884. We don't know anything about his early life or family.

On the 18th January 1902 Henry joined the Manchester Regiment. He was given the service number 7424. We don't know anything about his career before 1914. When he enlisted the battalions of the Manchester Regiment were based in the UK and in South Africa. Later a battalion would move from South Africa to India.

The First World War broke out in early August 1914. We don't know whether Henry was still a Regular soldier, or whether he had been transferred to the Army Reserve.

By the 15th August the 2nd Battalion had been mobilised and sent to France. They first saw combat at Le Cateau on the 26th, when around 350 members of the battalion were killed or wounded. This meant they needed reinforcements. Henry was one of the men sent. He arrived in France on the 27th October.

Henry was promoted quickly after he joined the 2nd Battalion. He was an Acting Sergeant by early December.

In November Henry and the 2nd Battalion moved north to the area around Ypres and Messines in Belgium. They went into the front lines near Wulverghem on the 5th December. Four days later Henry was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. His award was published in the London Gazette on the 18th February 1915. This is his citation:

For gallantry, ability and coolness on 9th December 1914, in endeavouring to obtain necessary information relative to the opposing German forces.

Henry had won his medal during a raid on the German trenches. One officer and 45 men had taken part. The raid began at 6:30pm. They were seen by the Germans and fired on. The officer in command and one of the soldiers were wounded, and 3 men went missing in the retreat.

We don't know much about the next few years. We believe Henry stayed with the 2nd Battalion. They fought on the Western Front, serving at Ypres in Belgium during April 1915, and then taking part in several battles during the Somme Offensive in the second half of 1916.

Henry became Acting Regimental Sergeant Major on the 12th May 1916 and was confirmed in the position on the 13th May 1917. This made him the most senior soldier (as opposed to officer) in the battalion.

During the autumn of 1917 the 2nd Battalion took part in the Passchendaele Offensive, fought around Ypres.

By this time Henry's abilities had marked him out. He was selected to become an officer. After training he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Durham Light Infantry on the 22nd October 1917.

Henry joined the 20th Battalion. They were sent to Italy during November. On the 24th October at Caporetto the Italians had suffered a serious defeat in their fight against Austria Hungary, so the British and French sent several units to help them.

The 20th Battalion was stationed along the Piave River near Treviso during its time in Italy. This time was short. It returned to France in early March 1918.

The Germans launched a major offensive on the 21st March. This drove the British back and led to desperate fighting. Tens of thousands of British soldiers were killed, wounded or captured.

This could be why Henry was given command of a Company on the 7th April. This contained around 200 men and consisted of 4 Platoons. As a Second Lieutenant Henry would normally command one Platoon. He was promoted to Acting Captain whilst he led his Company.

In around May or June Henry carried out another act of bravery. He was awarded the Military Cross. This citation was published in the London Gazette on the 16th September 1918:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an enemy attack. When his Company commander became a casualty he took command and handled his men with great skill and courage against heavy enemy attack.

After the German offensive was defeated the 20th Battalion moved to Belgium. Henry took part in the final British advance in this area that led to the end of the war on the 11th November.

In late December the battalion moved into Germany as part of the Army of Occupation. Henry was promoted to Lieutenant on the 22nd April 1919, whilst he was serving near Cologne. He retired on the 11th June 1920 and was granted the rank of Captain.

In early 1921 Henry lived at Swiss Villas, 165 Chorlton Road in Brooks Bar, Manchester. We don't know much about the rest of his life. He lived in the Longsight area of Manchester for many years, and worked on the railway, although we don't know his exact job.

Henry died between January and March 1977, shortly after his 92nd birthday. We believe he was also eligible for the clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914' for his 1914 Star.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council