Private Bert Howells was the son of John and Rachael Howells and born in January 1894. The family was originally from Staffordshire before moving to Runcorn after the birth of their eldest child Frank. The 1911 census shows they had 7 children, Frank (22), Bertie (15), John (14), Elizabeth (13), Edith (11), James (9), Edward (5). At the time of his death they were living at 48 Halton Road.
He was a Junior footballer, and attended Halton Road Junior School and then Victoria Road School. Prior to enlisting he worked for Mr William Moores of Bridge Street and his enlistment papers have his occupation as a carter.
He enlisted on 31st August 1914 and is described as healthy, being 5ft 6 ¼ inches in height and having a few tattoos. It was reported prior to his death that he had been injured twice during the conflict.
His service record has survived (burnt records) and from this we can piece together some of his history.
Prior to his first injury he received his one and only punishment for breach of discipline, this was on the 19th May 1915 at 12:20PM, he was reported for galloping a government horse on Fambrough Road in Aldershot by a L/Cpl Rice , MMP. For this he received 10 days CB.
After this incident he requested to be transferred from the 9th to the 10th battalion, the reasoning given was that he wanted to join his older brother, this must be Frank, and his request was granted. However, the records show only one Frank Howells in the Cheshire Regiment, and he was in the 5th Cheshire’s.
From the records it can be seen that his first injury was sustained on 11th May 1916, for which he was treated at 76 FA(First aid post) before being moved on to 30CCS (casualty clearing station) and then finally 10GH (general hospital). On 4th July 1916 he was admitted to Norfolk War Hospital Norwich. The nature of his injuries are not stated. He was discharged on the 31st July 1916 and embarked to France again on 26th November 1916. On landing he was posted to the 13th Bttn, but on 8th December moved back to the 10th.
Bertie was killed on the first day of the Battle of Messines when the 10th Battalion lost 1 officer and 26 others, were they were involved in the 2nd wave of attack near to Hell Farm. In a letter from his officer it doesn’t state how he died.
A letter was sent to his parents from his Lieutenant and read as follows.
“I am very sorry to say that in our last attack your son Bert was killed in action. We all are very sorry to lose such a good man, and he was full of life and well liked by all, being such good company. As regards his work, he took a keen interest in it, and he was the leader of my platoon bombing section. It seems so hard at a time like this that all the cream of the country should be taken, but we are all fighting for God, King and country, and we must all put our trust in him, so that when all our earthly life is passed we shall meet our loved one waiting for that great reunion, where we hope to see our pilot face to face when we have “crossed the bar”. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy, and I pray that God will grant you sufficient strength to bear the blow, for it seems so hard to lose a loved one. “
Compiled by Graeme Ainsworth