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Herbert S Whitehead


Claro Times  -  4th June 1915

Mr and Mrs Baldwin Whitehead, of 178 King's Road, Harrogate, who were formerly in business at Otley, have three sons serving with the colours. The eldest, Herbert Whitehead, is in the 10th Hussars; the next, Ernest Whitehead, is in the Royal Engineers at the Front; and the youngest, Frank Whitehead, is with the Royal Engineers in training at Northampton.

Recent letters from Herbert and Ernest tell of a happy meeting on the blood-sodden plains of Northern Flanders. Writing under date of May 17th, Ernest says : 

Herbert and I are quite well. I dare say you have received his letter before mine, telling you about our having met each other at last, after I had just about exhausted all enquiries for him, and ridden miles around the district to find him. How we found each other was as follows : On May 13th, very early in the morning, about 70 wounded cavalry men from different regiments were brought into the farm outbuildings where we are billeted. Amongst them were several of Herbert's squadron; in fact, some of his own troop, so naturally I was very worried about him, and felt sure that he was either wounded or killed. However, the next day I managed to find his transport column, and as he had not yet come back from the trenches I left a note with one of their men to give to him the same night when they came out, and directing him where to find me if it was possible to do so. However, he came up the following morning, and had dinner with me, and we spent the night together as well. I also saw him yesterday, and, all being well, I hope to see him again today. He is going back about fifteen miles for a rest in a day or two, and my cable section is going back, too, to a place quite near it, but I am sorry to say that I am not going back with them, as we are short of operators up here. Of course, I am all right here, but it is just because we could see more of each other down there. But as you know, none of us are out here for a picnic, and must stay where we are required.

In a letter dated May 27th, Herbert refers to a recent engagement in which he took part. He says : 

"Our regiment was in the second line of trenches, and the Germans shelled the first line to the extent that they had to retire on to our trench. About an hour later our brigade were ordered to retake them. This was about 11.30am. our maxim gun team had no sooner got into the open when a shell burst amongst them, killing three. We lost our squadron-leader and one sergeant about the same time. The squadron crept up the gutter at the side of the road for about half-a-mile, and then we went into the open in skirmishing order for another half-mile, and all the time we were under terrific shell fire. This was where we suffered the worst casualties. It was pitiful to hear their cries. The brigade eventually reached the lost trenches under heavy rifle fire. Our troop officer was hit in the groin. Myself and my section leader went to his assistance. He would not let us dress the wound, so my section leader left me alone with him in the open, where I stayed for about 30 minutes, and the shells were bursting all around us. Every time a shell burst anywhere near us, the troop officer would jump up and say "I have lost my nerve", so I kept asking him questions to try to keep his attention from the wounds. The Colonel passed later on, and he told me to try and get him into one of the dug-outs. This I eventually did with the assistance of another fellow. We had to drag him about fifty yards through the mud to get there, and every now and again we had to stop while he took a drink of brandy. After I had done this, the Colonel sent me back to headquarters with a message. This was rather a risky job, so he told me to take a man with me. In the meantime, our regiment had received the order to charge the Germans' first line, and by what the fellows say, the Germans got out of their trench and ran away when our chaps got within fifty yards of them with fixed bayonets. They do not like cold steel in the least. You will be sorry to hear that our Colonel and Adjutant were killed in this engagement. Our second-in-command was severely wounded, but he still went on giving orders".


Harrogate Herald - 18th April 1917

W H Breare letter

I have just opened a letter from Driver G Mills, of Harrogate, in which he gives me the sad news that his chum, a Harrogate lad, of the Canadian Forces, has been killed at the Front. It is Herbert S Whitehead, younger son of Mr Jack Whitehead, formerly architect, of Harrogate, now of Canada. The lad was in a dug-out, when a shell came and buried him. Death must have been instantaneous, for his spine was broken by the heavy debris. When our readers see this distressful announcement there will be widespread grief in Harrogate, for the bereaved parents are well-known here, and have our heartfelt sympathy.

Frank Whitehead, elder son of Mr Jack Whitehead, brother of our lamented Bert, has been granted a commission, and is in officers' training school. I have heard with much sorrow that the only sister of the Whitehead boys, Connie, is so ill at home in Canada that it is feared she may not recover. We are clinging to the hope that she will rally and ultimately be restored to health.


Harrogate Herald - 18th April 1917


Driver G Milnes, of the Overseas Battery, writes : 

May I first thank you very much for your kindness in sending me the Harrogate paper so regularly to my brother and myself, and I must say it is well appreciated. At the same time I have a very sad announcement for you to put into your next edition, this being the death of a very old friend of mine, Herbert S Whitehead, who you will remember was the youngest son of John Whitehead, one of Harrogate's leading architects some six or seven years ago. I am sorry I cannot inform you of the exact place, as you are well aware that we are not allowed to mention the name of the front we are holding. However, it happened on Sunday, April 8th, 1917, and by this time probably the English papers will be full of another big advance, also a very important hill taken by the Canadians; in fact, I may the strongest that Fritz held on the Western Front. Our division of artillery were directly opposite this point. The day before the attack being Sunday, Fritz commenced to shell the battery position, and having no dugouts to go into, we built a narrow trench running in rear of the guns to go into in case Fritz discovered our position. That is, of course, provided we had no orders for firing, at which time gunners cannot leave the guns on any consideration. As it happened, at this time we had no orders to fire, so thinking they would be safer in the trench, the gunners clambered in and were somewhat crowded, when Fritz landed a 5.9 right into the trench, just between, Bert and a fellow called Longworthy being killed both instantly. Longworthy and Whitehead were, I think, without doubt the two finest and well-respected boys we had in the battery. The former received a piece of shell about as big as my fist through his back and coming out at his chest; while Bert, although not touched by any of the splinters, got completely buried, and the weight of the falling earth and rock broke his spine. Seven others were wounded at the same time, but only one was at all serious. Although Mrs Whitehead will be heart-broken at receiving the news of her son's death, she would not on any account have stood in the way of him doing his bit; and will be proud to know that on more than one occasion he has shown great bravery by keeping up a steady fire against a heavy bombardment of the battery position. We have suffered very few casualties since coming to France, and it is pretty hard for us to realise the death of two such well-loved comrades as Whitehead and Longworthy. However, seeing that we have gained considerably mote than our objective, with some 7,000 prisoners, we will be pulling out on to some quiet front for a well-earned rest, and with God's help the war will be over before we see another front like this.


[From Canadian Archives - Aug 2001]



Regimental number: 301740

Rank: GNR

Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 10311 - 43


In memory of



who died on April 8, 1917.

Service Number: 301740

Age: N/A

Force: Army

Regiment: Canadian Field Artillery

Unit: 10th Bde.

Citation: N/A

Additional Information: N/A

Honours and Awards: N/A


Commemorated on Page 348 of the

First World War Book of Remembrance.


Do you have photographs or personal memorabilia of HERBERT STEELE WHITEHEAD that you want included in our photo collection?



Burial Information:





Grave Reference: VI. J. 19.

Location: Villers-au-Bois is a village in the Department of the Pas-de-Calais, 11 kilometres north-west of Arras. The VILLERS STATION CEMETERY is about 2 kilometres north-west of the village.


Information courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.



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