Oldham Historical Research Group


CWGC - Memorials for Robert and Harry fitton

Private Robert Fitton, 376790 1st/8th Battalion, The Manchester Regt.
Private Harry Fitton, 21274, 8th Battalion, the Queen's Own, Royal West Kent Regt.
Two brothers, from Crompton, Shaw, who died within 3 weeks of each other,
in September/October 1918, in France.

Robert and Harry were the eldest sons of William Fitton and his wife Eliza Matilda (nee Fielding). Robert was born in 1895 and Harry in 1897, their sister Nellie was born in late 1900. On the 1901 census the family were living at 7, Clegg Street, in Crompton (Shaw), near Oldham. Baby Nellie, was only 6 months old and Harry was 4. All had been born in Crompton. William was recorded as a cotton mule minder. Five year old Robert is missing from this return but appears to be recorded as a 'boarder', round the corner at 460 Rochdale Road, with Mary Openshaw and her son Thomas.

1901 Census - Robert fitton
1901 Census - Robert
1901 Census - Harry Fitton
1901 Census - Harry
1911 Census - Fitton   Family
1911 Census - Family

By 1911, we can see from the census return that the family has grown to include, a daughter Ethel, age 8, Fred age 6 and Rose age 1. They are still living at 7 Clegg Street and William is still a 'cotton mule spinner. Robert 15 and Harry 14 are both 'piecers.'

Neither Rober nor Harry qualified for the '15 Star' Medal, which denoted service overseas during 1915. Harry, as the younger would have been called up under the Military Service Act of 1916 but it is possible that Robert enlisted under the Derby Scheme, in the last quarter of 1915, which allowed the enlistee a choice of Regiment. He would then, probably, have seen active service by the summer or autumn of 1916.

Medal Rolls Index Card - Robert Fitton
Medal Rolls Index Card - Robert
Medal Rolls Index Card - Harry Fitton
Medal Rolls Index Card - Harry

Both Brothers would die in what became known as the 'Last 100 Days'. In the Spring of 1918 the Germans had launched their Spring Offensive, a last desperate push to break through the allied lines, reaching Paris before the American army could be properly in the field as allied reinforcements. Initially terrifyingly successful, it ground to a halt in August as the Allies re-grouped and went onto the offensive, eventually ending in the Armistice in November. Casualties on both sides were very heavy.

Although we can access Harry's Service Record, Robert's doesn't appear to have survived so there is little to go on. By the spring / summer of 1916, the 8th Manchester was in Egypt (after having spent most of 1915 on Gallipoli). In March 1917 the Battalion was posted to the Western Front. By this time, if not earlier, we must imagine Robert was with his Battalion on active service.

Robert was the first of the two brothers to die, on the 26th September 1916. He was buried in Bertincourt Chateau British Cemetery, near Bapaume, Pas de Calais.

The inscritpion on Robert's headstone reads, 'To Wait in Solemn Peace the Easter Morn. Father, Mother and Mary'.

He was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

From Harry's Service Record, we can learn that, when he attested for military service on the 8th February, 1916, just before he was 19, he was living with his family at 7, Clegg Street, Shaw, He was placed in the Reserve, in the 2nd 9th Battalion Middlesex Regt., number 267354 . He was mobilised on the 23rd March, 1916, but then the following day reassigned to the Reserve. He was remobilised on the 7th Februrary 1917. This was the date from which his active service was reckoned.

Pages from Harry's Service Record
Pages from Harry's Service Record
Pages from Harry's Service Record
3 Pages from Harry's Service Record

On the 14th September 1917 he is recorded as arriving at the Infanty Base at Etaples. A couple of days later, on the 17th, he was transferred to the 3rd/4th Battalion. Royal West Kents and joined them 'in the field' on the 21st.

On the 5th February 1918, he was transferred to the 8th Battalion Royal West Kents, 'in the field'.

From his Service Record we learn that he was granted UK leave from the 15th to the 29th March 1918.

In early August, 1918, he suffered an accidental injury and was burned : "On the morning of the 7th August, 1918, this man was in the front line. He was heating some bacon fat in the lid of his mess tin and accidentally dropped some of the fat over his knee causing a burn". It appears to have been more than a minor burn as he was first treated at the field ambulance , a week later at a dressing station and, on the 20th reported as 'injured'. He wasn't fit to rejoin his Battalion until the 14th September. Less than five weeks later, on the 16th October, he was 'killed in action'. He was buried in the Romeries Communal Cemetery Extension, just to the south of Valenciennes.

He was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

They were cousins of Harold Fitton, who died in the Battle of the Somme

Link to Robert's CWGC entry
Link to Robert's CWGC entry
Link to Harry's CWGC entry
Link to Harry's CWGC entry

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Contributed by : Ann Swetnam

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