Henry William Lines

Name Henry William Lines
Corps Northamptonshire Regiment, formerly Leicestershire Regiment
Rank Sergeant
Service No. 201308, formerly 7346
Date/Place of Entry 1st August 1914
Date of Death 1937

(I am greatly indebted to Janice Binley of Cottingham for sharing her information on the Lines family, on which this account is partly based.)

Henry William Lines was born in the autumn of 1886 near Banbury, the fourth child and second son of farm labourer Owen Lines and his wife Mary nee Scott. For information on his family history see the entry for his brother Owen George Lines. Their younger brother Frederick Albert Lines also served.

Owen and Mary moved around Northamptonshire in the 1890s before coming to Cottingham from Hallaton between 1898 and 1901. In the latter year Henry was working for a baker in Rothwell, along with George Thomas Jarvis of Cottingham. George went on to establish his own bakery there but Henry enlisted in the army on 24 May1904 in Leicester, aged eighteen years and seven months.

His army service record states he was then working in Birmingham as a bricklayer’s labourer. It also gives his height as five feet, five inches and weight as one hundred and thirty seven pounds (on transfer it said he was five foot seven, which is either a testament to army food or more likely careless measuring). A few months later on 15 October, he joined the 2nd Battalion.

On 24 January 1906 he was pronounced fit for service in India but he transferred into 1st Battalion on 25 March, gaining a Good Conduct badge en route. He returned to the 2nd on 16 October that year and embarked for India, where he served in Belgaum (now Belagavi) in the state of Karnataka near the border with Goa and Maharashtra.  He was then sent to Poona (now Pune) in Maharashtra and Bellary in 1910.

Belagavi is an ancient city in the foothills of the beautiful Western Ghats, some five hundred kilometres from Bangalore. Its climate is generally pleasantly cool throughout the year, though monsoon rains from June through September can be unrelenting. There was a heavy British military presence there before the War, and it is a major base for the Indian army now.

Life in Belagavi as a common soldier in peacetime could be good, certainly better than in pre-WW1 Britain. Barracks were normally spacious with opportunities for sport and social activities, and some privates even had an Indian servant. The Hindustani word ‘cushy’ entered the English language in the early 1900s.

Pune is on the semi-arid Deccan plateau, the second biggest city in the state of Maharashtra after Mumbai. At the turn of the century it saw a lot of political agitation. It was Britain’s largest military cantonment during the Raj. Bellary in Karnataka state was the seventh largest town in Madras Presidency, and one of the chief military stations in southern India, garrisoned by British and native Indian troops.

During his time in India Henry committed a few minor misdemeanours, like just about every other soldier – ‘using insubordinate language’ (Belagavi), ‘making an improper reply’ and ‘using obscene language’ (Pune) ‘being out of bounds and improperly dressed’(Bellary)  and more interestingly ‘taking two pairs of khaki trousers from another soldier without permission’ in November 1911 (also at Bellary).

Other local soldiers known to have served in India with the 2nd Leicestershires included William James Tansley, David Tansley (who had first  joined a month before Henry and went to India a month before him) and Sydney Thomas Tilley from Cottingham, and Arthur Towndrow from Wilbarston.

Henry married Mabel Hannah Tansley in 1913. She was a daughter of George Tansley and Naomi nee Pridmore of Cottingham and related to several Tansley and Beadsworth servicemen. Her cousin Samuel Ernest Tansley, whose parents moved to London around 1901, died at Gallipoli in August 1915 while serving with the Royal Fusiliers. Her second cousin William James Tansley of Cottingham, like Henry a member of the 2nd Leicestershires, died at Neuve Chapelle on 13th March 1915, as did Arthur Towndrow’s brother Edwin (aka Edward) Towndrow  .

On 1st August 1914, now father of a baby daughter, Henry William rejoined his regiment, though this time he was assigned to the 1st Battalion. He embarked from Southampton for France where he arrived on 20 September. The 1st Battalion formed part of the 6th Division and came under fire immediately. It remained at the centre of the fighting throughout that autumn, though Henry was hospitalised with appendicitis from 31 October to 14 November. He was awarded the Mark of Distinction to the 1914 Star Medal along with other soldiers from the Division.

In March1915 the1st Battalion took part in an attack near Hooge which was intended to divert the enemy from the main attack at Neuve Chapelle. Henry however was back in hospital having been admitted on 28 February with ulcerated legs, returning to his battalion early in May. In late September 1916 he was again admitted, this time with multiple boils after which he was sent back to England to convalesce.

On 5th January 1917 he transferred into the 4th (Territorial) Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment stationed in Egypt. This battalion was part of the 54th (East Anglian) Division. It had earlier fought at Gallipoli from where its remaining eighteen officers and four hundred and twenty seven other ranks were sent to Alexandria just before Christmas 1916. They were briefly at Sidi Bishr before travelling on foot and by train to Hosh Isa in the western desert, returning to Sidi Bishr on 19 January. Just over a week later they were once again on the move, this time to Mena camp near Cairo where they stayed for two months.

Henry Lines was one of a complement of soldiers from the Leicestershire and Royal Warwickshire regiment, all of whom had seen active service in France and were sent out to make up the battalion’s strength to nine hundred. He embarked at Devonport for Egypt in January on HMT Megantic, a Canadian ocean liner briefly used as a troop ship in 1915 (Dr Crippen was sent back from Canada on the Megantic before his trial for murder.) Henry landed at Sidi Bishr and then went to Al Qantarah ash Sharqiyah (Kantara), the main supply depot for all British, Australian and New Zealand Sinai operations.

On 2 April the 54th Division moved to relieve the 42nd Division at Shallufa on Number One (Southern) Section of the Suez Canal defences. They spent the rest of the year at various posts of the Canal defences including Darb el Haj, Halfway House, and Kubri Railhead. Most of their time was spent improving defences but sometimes the division supplied men as part of columns moving into the hills towards Nekhyl, during which sporadic brushes with enemy posts took place.

The temperatures at the canal were as unbearable as you would expect – in May the regimental diary recorded 117 Fahrenheit in the shade and 122 in the tents though the highest temperature was 123 in the shade on 4 June. However substantial parties of men went in turn to Alexandria for a week’s recuperation.

In autumn the 4th battalion Northamptonshires was one of several withdrawn from Suez to join T.E. Lawrence and the Arab forces near Mecca, but plans were changed and they returned to the Canal.

January 1917 was spent in training until the battalion left for Kantara on the 30th. Sixty men and one officer however remained at the advance base at Romani. The bulk of the battalion marched through the desert for twelve days before reaching Bela, south west of Gaza. Whether Henry was with them or still at Romani is not known but he was appointed unpaid lance corporal on 28 February.

In March he returned to Sidi Bishr, only rejoining his unit on 12 August. This presumably meant he took part in the Third Battle of Gaza which was fought from 27 October to 7 November, after which Gaza was captured, and the Battle of Jaffa on 21-22 December.Henry was promoted to sergeant at the end of the year.

Active operations were halted during the winter months because heavy rain made supplying the troops extremely difficult. The battalion was at Mulebbis until March 1918 when it took part in an advance, largely unopposed, to the town of Mejdel Yarba in the western hills descending to the Jordan. Early in April it was in action in operations at Berukin.On 5 May Henry was again in hospital, but why and for how long is unknown.

In early October the 54th Division reached Haifa and was ordered to Beirut on 20 October. It moved through Acre, Ras es Naqura, Tyre and Sidon to reach Beirut at the end of the month. Turkey signed an Armistice on 31 October after which the 54th returned to Kantara in Egypt and then to Helmieh near Cairo. There was civil unrest in Cairo and before demobilisation got fully underway the 4th battalion were involved in suppressing riots.

Henry was demobilised on 8 February 1919. Army discharge documents then contained a form headed ‘Particulars to character on discharge’ and Henry got a Yes on Sobriety, Reliability, and (condescendingly) intelligence.  He was further described as ‘a particularly strong and active man’ and had been ‘Transport Corporal and Sergeant for a considerable time and had a thorough knowledge of horses and transport works.’ Henry himself said his preferred occupation after discharge would be baker.

Henry and Mabel had four children.  He died in 1937 aged fifty one before the three youngest had reached their teens. Mabel died in 1977.

Other than his brothers Owen George and Frederick Albert, the only other members of his extended Lines family who can definitely be identified as servicemen are Ernest Cowley, son of his cousin Ernest Cowley (descended form Hannah Lines), and Albert Bazeley, Edmond White Bazeley, Frank Walter Bazeley and Arthur Bazeley, all second cousins on his grandmother Rhoda Lines nee Bazeley’s side. On his mother’s side was his cousin William George Scott.