Son of Mr. Samuel Boston and Mrs. Rose Selina Boston, of 28, Princess Street, Congleton, Cheshire and 70, Rood Hill, Congleton, Cheshire. Prior to enlistment, he was employed in the Grocery Department of the Congleton Cooperative Society, previously he worked as a Cotton Towel Weaver and Fustian Cutter.
Private Harold Boston enlisted in the 1/7th Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment on the 10th of December 1915, at Congleton, he was 20 at that time. He was mobilised on the 20th of January 1916, and posted to the 3 /7th Battalion on the 23rd of January 1916. After some six months with the Cheshire Regiment he transferred to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, serving in the 1/ 7th Battalion, part of the 158th Brigade, 53rd Division. He embarked from Devonport on the 13th of July 1916, disembarking at Alexandria on the 24th of July 1916, as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, joining his unit on the 6th of August 1916. The beginning of 1917 had been a quiet time for the Royal Welsh Fusiliers They had been "resting", in fact working very hard sinking wells in the sand hills near the coast. Orders were received for a major attack on Turkish positions on the 26th of March. They were part of the 159th Brigade and its role would be to advance on a point called Mansura Ridge, some 2.5 miles south east of Gaza, ready to support the 158th and 160th Brigades. The leading company's moved off at 12:20 hours. It took far longer than expected to march the three miles, due to some hostile shelling and it was midday when the Brigades arrived at the Ridge. The attack had been underway for 10 minutes and they were ordered into the advance immediately. The main body of troops was now 1000 yards in front and considerable amount of "double time" was needed to catch up. The Battalion attacked with its two companies in front, the other two following shortly behind. As soon as they left the shelter of the Ridge, they came under heavy artillery fire. As they advanced through a cornfield, they came under rifle fire from Turkish troops behind a cactus hedge and from snipers and machine gunners on a hill to the right. The advance could only be continued by a series of short rushes and the various units of the Brigade became mixed. They gradually got to within 200 yards of the enemy. By now the British field artillery had been brought forward and was now shelling the Turkish front line. The artillery was also brought to bear on the enemy positions behind the cactus hedge. All the available reserves, were now thrown into the assault. The extra troops allowed the whole front line to storm forward and capture the positions. The area was secured and consolidated by about 16:00 hours. As seemed too often on this front, a senior British commander then gave an inexplicable order to withdraw and as the Regimental History records " At about 20 00 hours, to the amazement, indignation and wrath of all ranks, a withdrawal of infantry began. Among those killed in this operation was Private Harold Boston
CASUALTY OF THE BATTLE OF GAZA.
Extract from the Congleton Chronicle 1917.
It is now some weeks since we heard that our local Territorials had been in action again, after a period of comparative quietness in Egypt, where they were transferred upon the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula. They took no inconspicuous part in the Battle of Gaza, fought on the 26th and 27th of March and it was with commiseration and sorrow that we heard of the death of Private Harold Boston of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. On the morning of the 26th, a dense fog delayed operations, and it was not possible to attack the Gaza position until the afternoon, when the enemy first line trenches were captured. There were several local casualties. Private Boston was killed on either the 26th or 27th of March 1917. From what one can gather from the report from the War Office the primary object of the operations was to seize the Wadi Guzzee, so as to cover the advance of the railway, and the Wadi was occupied under cover of advanced troops pushed forward in the direction of Gaza. Sir Archibald Murray says "The operation was most successful, and owing to the fog and waterless nature of the country round Gaza just fell short of a complete disaster for the enemy. Our troops are exceedingly proud of themselves, and I am delighted with their enterprise, endurance, skill, and leading. None of our troops were at any time harassed or hard pressed". As has been intimated, several local lads were wounded, among whom were Private Gibson and John Gallimore. To those who mourn the loss of dear ones the heartfelt sympathy of all will go out, although death is truly a thing too great for mundane or journalistic expression of sympathy which might seem apt on such occasions. Still, although there is many a bleeding heart in the old borough these glorious summer days, there is nothing so comforting as human sympathy, even if it has been described as ephemeral. Yet, it is not for us to mourn the loss of these heroic lads who have gone the way of all flesh, for surely a more glorious death was never vouchsafed mortal than fighting for such a cause, such a death amidst the clash of arms is fitting alike for prince or peasant, God grant that their sacrifice shall earn for future generations a lasting peace, as it will earn for their soul’s eternal rest. Official news was received in April 1917, by his parents that Private Harold Boston, of the 53rd Welsh Division Expeditionary Force, had been killed in action in a heavy battle in Palestine, on the 26th or 27th of March 1917. The sad news of his death was received with profound regret by many friends and the sympathy of all will go out to the bereaved parents in this their great loss.
A strong band of affection existed between the devoted mother and father and the equally devoted son, and how dark is the shadow that has thus descended on a once happy but now sadly stricken home circle. The Great Reaper has seldom, if ever it seems to our mortal vision, dealt a more cruel blow. When war broke out Private Boston had bright prospects, but like thousands of brave young hearts who have added lustre to the name of England, he devoted his life to his country's cause, and has died a death which makes his country always his debtor. To the fond mother and father, with their cup of sorrow overflowing, mere words of sympathy and condolence can do nothing towards the obliterations of the heavy infliction, but if it be not an intrusion upon domestic grief, may the thought be ventured that there are green fields beyond sorrows and that God never means harm to our lives when He sends us affliction.
A great thinker has declared, and as Christians we believe it, that, "Our disappointment are God's appointments and bring not compensations", our losses are designed to become gains to us as God's place for us. Never doubt it, even in the darkest hour, or when the pale is severest, or the cross is heaviest, and then there is the assurance of the Master Himself.
Whoever will save his life shall lose it, but whoever will lose his life for My sake will find it". There are times when the best use we can make of our life is to give it up. Life that is saved by shrinking from duty is not worth saving. Private Boston has done his duty nobly and well, and sorrow as they naturally must at the loss, Mr. and Mrs. Boston must always feel, in the assured and heartfelt sympathy of the entire community that he has died the noblest of deaths of which any may ever be justly proud.
Cheshire County Memorial Project would like to thank John and Christopher Pullen for this information on Harold.