Private Harry BLACKWELL


Regiment/Service:
Canadian Infantry
(Central Ontario Regiment)
Unit:
75th Battalion
Service Number:
769171
Date of Death:
15 August 1917 - Killed in Action
Age:
26
Cemetery / Memorial:



Personal History:

Harry was born on 10th December 1890 the son of George Henry (Cabdriver) and Martha Emma (née Taylor) Blackwell, at 8 Newstead Terrace, Buxton. (1891 Census RG 12/2778) Ten years later the family had moved to 7 Midland Terrace, Buxton (1901 Census RG 13/3269). Harry had an older sister, Annie, and a younger brother, Herbert.

By 1911 (Census RG 14/21233) Harry had gained two more younger siblings, Percy and Ella, and the family had moved again, to 15 Fairfield Road, Buxton. Harry was working in the same employment as his father - "Cabdriver". In 1913 the family seem to have emigrated to Canada and in 1914 were living at 469 Gerrard Street East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Harry was living at 583 Parliament Street, Toronto, and employed as a "Dairyman". 

In reporting that he was missing 'The Toronto Evening Telegram'  (5th September 1917) gave Harry's occupation as "Teamster". The same source dated 18th March 1918, confirming his death, gave the address of his parents at that time as 598 Dundas Street East, Toronto. However, after the War when the CWGC records were compiled his parents were listed as living at 4 Belmont Terrace, Buxton. After the tragic loss of the first son the family returned in order to be with extended family.
At the time of his enlistment in 1915 Harry was 5 ft. 7½ ins (1.71 m.) tall, had a 'dark' complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He gave his religion as 'Methodist'. 

Harry's younger brother Herbert was killed six months earlier, on the 17th February 1917. (See: Footnote below)

Military History:
Harry enlisted into the Canadian Army on the 27th December 1915, at Toronto. His Battalion had already landed in France, on the 15th September 1915, and assigned to the 4th Brigade, 2nd Division, Canadian Corps and given a section of the front on the Ypres Salient, near Messines. On 15th September 1916 the Second Division joined the attack at the Somme, supported by tanks for the first time.  The infantry captured three lines of trenches and reached their final objectives in just 40 minutes. It is not known at what time Harry joined as a replacement or reinforcement.

In August 1917 Harry's Battalion were part of the 4th Division, 10th Brigade at Battle of Hill 70 (15th - 25th August 1917). On the evening of 14th August the attack commenced with the bombardment of the hill by the Canadian artillery, damaging the trenches and blowing holes in the defensive wire. At 4:25 a.m., dawn of the15th, the barrage began and the Canadians went over the top. Harry was one of 103 men of the Central Ontario Regiment (982 Canadians in total) who were killed on the 15th August.

Harry's Burial Register entry states: "Previously reported missing, now for official purposes presumed to have died:

According to a comrade's statement, this soldier was one of a party detailed to reach certain objectives in front of Lens. Craters 1 & 2 were taken; and Private Blackwell was last seen proceeding on to take Crater 3, then their objective. It is believed the party got too far advanced and were cut off by the Germans, as none of them answered the roll call the next morning."

In total, the Germans counterattacked 21 times, the last at dawn on August 18th. The Canadians repulsed them all. The attack on Hill 70 resulted in 1,505 men killed, 3,810 wounded, 487 wounded by gas and 41 prisoners to the Germans. The bulk of the casualties were on the first day of the attack. In some cases companies reached, and held their objectives while sustaining over 70% casualties. The Germans had committed 5 divisions in an attempt to hold Hill 70, with approximately 20,000 casualties, 970 Germans taken prisoner.

The Canadian troops earned five Victoria Crosses during the 4 day period of the battle.


                                                                                                         

Footnote:
· Harry's younger brother Pt. Herbert BLACKWELL was killed six months earlier, on 17th February 1917, serving with the Royal Fusiliers.

· Another Buxton man in the Canadian Infantry - Pt. Harry PLANT - was killed in action on the same day

Sources:
· The Toronto Evening Telegram, 5th September 1917 and 18 March 1918
· The Canadian Great War Project
· CEF Burial Registers, 649-B-17419

Commemorated on:
Link to CWGC Record
The Vimy Memorial
Pt. Blackwell's name on the Vimy Memorial
Sgt. Harry Blackwell
poppy
about the Battle for Hill 70
the operational orders for the attack