A Tragic Accident

 

 

On Tuesday 1st February 1916, the battalion were in the Maricourt Defences taking turns to man the front line trenches. At about 3.25pm Private Henry Eckersall was sat with his comrade Private Robert Goodier on the dug out at the rear of the trench. Henry remarked to his friend that his rifle was dirty and he commenced to clean it-with tragic consequences.

 Private Goodier states:

 “He placed the butt end of the rifle over a seat made of a hurdle and with the muzzle pointing towards him commenced to clean it. Taking no further notice of him I heard, 2 minutes later a loud report and saw Pte Eckersall fall on the floor crying “oh” and saw smoke coming from the muzzle of his rifle. With assistance, I picked him up and he ran out into the fire trench saying “shall I sit down or lie down?” I told him to lie down. Lance Corporal Lowe then applied a field dressing and later stretcher bearers came up and took him away”.

 

 Henry Eckersall was evacuated to the Field Ambulance at Chipilly where he died from his wounds the same day.

 

A court of inquiry headed by Major Whitehead and consisting of Lt Heyworth and Lt Wigley reached the opinion that Pte Eckersall was to blame as he had not followed the instructions issued in Battalion orders as to the proper method of cleaning his rifle.

 

Henry Eckersall had volunteered on the 3rd September 1914 and was posted to 7 Platoon B Company. He was the Son of Thomas and Annie Eckersall of 56 Fylde Road, Great Lever Bolton. Prior to enlisting he had worked as a typist in Manchester. He was a member of Francis Street Congregational Church in Farnworth and secretary of Farnworth and District billiards league. He had been in France for just 87 Days.

 

8538 Private Henry Eckersall is buried in Chipilly Communal Cemetery.

 

Henry Eckersall

 

 

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