Harold Burgiss Frecker

Rank Private
Service No 3483
Date of Death 15/06/1915
Age 29
Regiment/Service Seaforth Highlanders 5th Battalion
Memorial Le Touret Memorial. This is located 7.5 kms north-east of Bethune, northern France. It commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers who were killed in this sector of the Western Front from the beginning of October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in late September 1915 and have no known grave.

 

Harold was born on September 25th 1885 to Arthur William (1850-1943), who was from Guernsey, and Maria Frecker, nee Dibben (1853-1942). He was baptised at All Saints Kingston-upon-Thames on January 3rd 1886 with his twin sister, Hilda. They had two elder siblings, Elsie (b.1882) and Charles (b.1878). Unfortunately, Elsie was to be hospitalised with paralysis in her teenage years, and the family moved to St Pancras to be closer to the hospital. It was there that Harold’s father found employment as a foreign correspondence clerk and his brother Charles as a surveyor’s clerk.

By the time of the 1911 Census, the family, without Elsie, had moved to 42 Holly Park, Finchley. Arthur and Charles were employed in the woollens trade, whilst Harold was a builder.

Regimental records of the Seaforth Highlanders gives us a clear account of Harold’s short military service in the theatre of war, as follows:

1st May 1915 the battalion embarked at Folkestone and after an uneventful crossing landed at Boulogne … entraining took place next day, and after a long, wearisome journey the battalion detrained at Merville, and marched to its billets at Robecq and the surrounding farms.

At Robecq the battalion remained from the 4th to the x3th May, but on that day sudden orders came to move northward owing to the great German attempt to break through at Ypres, and on the morning of the x4th the whole Division was on the march and by evening the battalion was in billets at Strazeele, a little village between Hazebrouck and Bailleul. The situation in the north having improved, we remained here for four days. On 31st May the Division sidestepped a few miles further south, taking over the line in front and to the north of Festubert.

On 4th June the battalion occupied the reserve trenches in front of Indian Village, so called from its ruins having been held by Indian troops prior to coming out. This was a much hotter corner even than Richebourg, the Boche being much nearer, and having better observation of the area behind out front line; with the result that any undue movement led to a severe strafing.

On 14th June the battalion was again in the line, preparatory to a renewed attack on the German lines, the purpose being the straightening of the salient from the Orchard southward, as owing to the awkward form of our front line here we were losing heavily day after day.

In our Division, the main attack was made by the 153rd and 154th Brigades, while the 152nd Brigade held the remainder of the Divisional front, with the exception of the Fifth Seaforths who were to advance and connect up between the advancing brigades in their new positions, and the test of the 152nd Brigade who were to continue to hold the original front. In the afternoon our artillery opened fire on the German wire and trenches with every available gun, and for some hours the din was terrific, while great clouds of smoke, yellow, black, and light-coloured, rose from the German position. At 6 p.m. the firing ceased, and the infantry went over in open order, to cross the four or five hundred yards between them and the enemy. In the light of later warfare one can visualize the scene, a grassy plain on a beautiful summer afternoon, no artillery barrage, no proper cutting of the enemy's wire, no firing on his batteries after the infantry started, the infantry advancing absolutely unprotected except by the fire and machine-gun of their comrades, and machine guns were few and far between in those days, and can one wonder that, in spite of heroic efforts, the attack was a failure, and although some got into the enemy trenches they were so few in number that, during the darkness, they had to crawl back to our own line as best they could. Many a hard lesson had to be learned before we evolved a system which developed the attack with a chance of success, by a great addition to our gun power, and a greater supply of shells than the miserably inadequate supply we had at that time.

The Fifth Seaforths suffered heavily in proportion to the numbers actually involved in the advance. " C " Company was the first to top the parapet, and this they did in gallant style, advancing under a murderous fire in open order as steadily as if on parade. They were horrified to find that on their front the German wire was absolutely intact, and all the survivors could do was to take advantage of any depression in the ground and wait for night. At 4.30 a.m. a second attack was ordered, but, news having arrived that the 153rd and 154th Brigades had had to retire, the order was countermanded. On taking the toll of battle, it was found that Lieuts. J. D. L. Mowat and D. Dunnet were killed, and Captains Robertson and Ritson and Lieutenants W. A. Macdonald, E. Fraser, and W. Mowat wounded, while 32 men were killed and 70 wounded. Many deeds of heroism were performed on that June morning, stretcher-bearers going out and bringing in the wounded under heavy fire …

The St Luke’s Finchley monthly magazine of July 1915 records Harold’s death in the Roll of Honour. And then adds:

“The chaplain writing to Mrs Frecker says: ‘The whole battalion deplore the loss of your son and join me in expressing to you and those who mourn with you their deep sympathy. He died for King and Country in a way that reflected honour on himself and the Battalion.’