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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 57696
18th Battn/The Kings (Liverpool) Regiment
Who was Killed in Action on Monday, 9th April 1917
Age 25

Row A Grave 2
Neuville-Vitasse Road Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Neuville-Vitasse Road Cemetery

Neuville-Vitasse Road Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France1

Harold Buckingham was born in Beeston in 18912, the son of Harriet Buckingham. Harriet's parents, Charles and Harriet (née Matthews) Buckingham, had moved with their family to Stagglethorpe, Nottinghamshire in the 1870s, where Charles worked as an agricultural labourer before moving to Beeston in the 1880s. In 1891, they were living at 5 Newton Street, Beeston with Charles working as a gardener and his daughter Harriet as a wool dresser3. Within a very short time after this, Charles died and the young Harriet gave birth to Harold. Now, in all probability, in reduced circumstances, they moved to a small cottage at 4 Willoughby Street, Beeston4. Early in 1896. Harriet married Walter Gough, originally from Sheffield and, by 1901, they were living at 31 Regent Street, Beeston5 with their then three children and with Walter working as a steel polisher at the Humber cycle works. Harold, however, was then living with his widowed maternal grandmother who had, by then, moved to 16 Crown Yard, Beeston6 and was working as a charwoman. Harriet senior died in 1907 and, by 1911, Harold had moved in with his mother's family, which now included eight children and was now living at 86 Regent Street, Beeston7.

Although his Army Service Record has not survived, it appears that Harold enlisted in November 19158, initially with the 356, North Midland Cyclist Company. However, at some point, probably after his initial training and in response to the need for more infantry, he was transferred to the The Kings (Liverpool) Regiment, joining its 18th (Service) Battalion, part of Kitchener's New Army, possibly in time for the Somme battles in July 1916. The battalion was one of a number of 'Liverpool Pals' battalions that had been formed in Liverpool by Lord Derby on 29th August 1914 and had first landed at Boulogne in November 1915 as part of 89th Brigade, 30th Division before transferring to 21st Brigade, 30th Division in December 19159.

The Battle of the Somme that got underway in a dramatic fashion on July 1st 1916 resulted in horrific casualties - over 57,000 British on the first day alone - and continued as a series of battles continuing over the next five months. From the start, 18th Battalion was in the front line and took part in an attack on the village of Montauban which was taken after just over two hours of fighting, though it suffered heavy casualties from enemy machine-gun fire. On the following day, it helped to beat off and enemy counter attack and then began to move forward against further objectives. In the days up to the 10th, bitter fighting continued in attempts to take further objectives, notably Trones Wood, but these had to be abandoned in the face of difficult terrain, determined enemy counter attacks and heavy shelling. For the many men for whom this was the first experience of battle - possibly including Private Buckingham - this must have been a terrifying initiation10.

In April 1917, the battalion took part in the Battle of the Scarpe in the Arras area, alongside other Liverpool battalions. It was on the first day, the 9th April, during an attack against the Hindenburg Line at Neuville-Vitasse, when they were stopped by still-intact enemy wire defences, suffering heavy casualties from intense enemy machine-gun and rifle fire11. Private Buckingham was amongst those killed in action on that day and was buried in the Neuville-Vitasse Road Cemetery.

The village of Neuville-Vitasse was captured by the 56th (London) Division on 9 April 1917, almost entirely lost at the end of March 1918, and cleared at the end of the following August. The cemetery was made by units of the 33rd Division after the first capture of the village, and two other burials were added in June 1917. Neuville-Vitasse Road Cemetery now contains 86 First World War burials, 11 of them unidentified12.

Private Buckingham was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal and the British Medal13. His Army financial effects of 1 15s 9d were paid to his mother, as his sole legatee, on 16 August 1917 and she received his War Gratuity of 6 on 17 October 191914.

1The photograph of Neuville-Vitasse Road Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q3/1891 (Ref 7b 202). He was baptised at Beeston Parish Church on 28 October 1891.
31891 Census, Beeston - Piece 2671 Folio 47 - 5 Newton Street.
44 Willoughby Street was recorded as his mother's address when Harold was baptised. This appears to be one of the cottages acquired, later in about 1912, by the Gospel Mission, along with the site for its hall.
51901 Census, Beeston - Piece 3153 Folio 122 - 31 Regent Street.
61901 Census, Beeston - Piece 3153 Folio 57 - 16 Crown Yard, Church Street.
71911 Census, Beeston - Piece 20431 RD429 SD3 ED6 Sched 310 - 86 Regent Street.
8Calculated based on the amount of his War Gratuity
9This summary of 18th Battalion's formation and early involvement in the war is based on its entry on The Long, Long Trail website (www.1914-1918.net/kings.htm)
10A more complete account of the capture of Montauben is at www.longlongtrail.co.uk/battles/battles-of-the-western-front-in-france-and-flanders/the-battles-of-the-somme-1916/the-capture-and-defence-of-montauban-1-13-july-1916/
11This short account of the battle is based on the Battalion's war diary, available on ancestry.com.
12This description of Neuville-Vitasse Road Cemetery is based on that included in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
13Harold's medal awards are recorded on his Medal Card, available on ancestry.com. Unfortunately, no embarkation date is recorded on the card
14Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com.

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