Private, 54458, 2nd/7th Battalion, Manchester Regiment
Killed in Action on 21 March 1918, Battle of the Fifth Army, aged 19
Buried at Pozières Cemetery, France
Pozières Memorial, Stone No.67.A

Reginald Henry Pannett
(Click to enlarge)

Reginald Henry Pannett looks out of his photograph with a mix of pride and trepidation, as well he might. His birth was registered in the final quarter of 1898, so he was only 19 when he died. Although he is recorded as having enlisted at Horsham, his attestation papers have not survived, so it is impossible to know how long he served for. His medal card shows he was awarded the Victory and British Medals, but makes no reference to which theatres of war he might have served in, suggesting perhaps a short army career. The Register of Soldiers' Effects shows that his father was paid £13 12s. 1d. on his son's behalf on 20 September 1919.

Reginald was the son of Sussex-born Moses Pannett and his wife Mary Meadows (married 1897), and in 1891 the couple were running the Highgate Stores in Forest Row, where Moses was enumerated as a grocer. Mary came from Essex, but her two children were shown as born in Forest Row; Reginald, aged 2 in 1891 and his 9 month old sister Florence. By 1911 the family had moved to 9 Balfour Gardens, Forest Row, and Moses now gave his occupation as Colonial Butcher. There was also another daughter in the household, Beatrice, aged 8. All three children were listed as at school.

His mother signed the application for his name to appear in the Forest Row Memorial book, giving her address still as 9, Balfour Gardens, and it was therefore she who described Reginald's death as in the Battle of the Fifth Army. No battle appears to have been fought with this precise name, but the Fifth Army was a field army which was part of the British Expeditionary Force. The name Fifth Army was taken on in October 1916. The IWM Lives of the First World War website records his death during the Battle of Manchester Hill, St Quentin. This did indeed take place on 21 March 1918. The Manchester City Council website describes it in the following terms:

The battle is the most famous of the final stands made by the British Army whose efforts contributed to the delay of the German advance.

Manchester Hill was an area of slightly higher ground in Northern France. It was an important defensive position as it offered commanding fields of view and overlooked the town of St Quentin, which was held by the Germans. It was given its name after being captured in April 1917 by the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, which included the war poet Wilfred Owen.

On 21 March 1918, at the start of the Spring Offensive, the Germans launched a series of attacks concentrated around the area where the British and French Armies conjoined. Manchester Hill was attacked by the German army and defended by the 16th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This offensive let the Germans concentrate an overwhelming superiority of both infantry and artillery which is why the 16th Manchesters' defence of Manchester Hill was such an heroic and remarkable feat of arms...

The soldiers fought bravely to defend their hill position, but German reinforcements meant that they were fighting against overwhelming odds. Despite a heroic defence, the action was unsuccessful with many dead or wounded by 4pm that day.

This was part of the 1918 Battles of the Somme which began with a Spring Offensive launched by the Germans on 21 March. This lasted until August, but it seems that Reginald did not even survive the first day. His mother recorded that he was buried at Pozières Cemetery, but it seems more likely that he was commemorated at the Pozières Memorial. This relates to a period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers during the German offensive across battlefields which had already been fought over on the Somme. This offensive lasted for some months before the Advance to Victory, which began on 8 August 1918.

The Memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom who have no known grave and who died on the Somme between 21 March and 7 August 1918. There are 600 names from the Rifle Brigade, another 600 from The Durham Light Infantry, 500 from the Machine Gun Corps and over 400 names from the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery. The Manchester Regiment, to which Reginald Henry Pannett belonged, commemorates approximately 500 men at this site.


Pozières Memorial to the Missing, Somme Battlefields
(Click to enlarge)

The Pozières Memorial and the cemetery were designed by W H Cowlishaw with sculpture by Laurence A Turner; it was unveiled by Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien on 4th August 1930.

Pam Griffiths