Howard was born in Ely in 1897, the eldest son of Herbert and Harriet Howard. The family later moved to Queen Street in March, Cambridgeshire. Herbert attended North District School but by 1911 at the age of 14, he was a land labourer then he became a gateman for Great Eastern Railways in 1914. In January that same year Herbert had also enlisted in G Company of the 1st Cambridgeshire Regiment, with the service number 1869.
When the Cambridgeshires landed in France, in February 1915, Herbert was now in D Company and he would have seen action in those first few months of discovery on the Western Front. He returns to the UK in June, but is posted back to France in October.
Howard is present when the Regiment capture the Schwaben Redoubt in October 1916, though his exact role is unknown. A few weeks after, the Cambridgeshires are tasked with capturing objectives in the village of St Pierre Divion, which is beyond the Schwaben Redoubt towards the Ancre valley. The objectives are a bridge, and a mill and both were known to be defended with interlocking machine gun positions. Howard was one of the team tasked with capturing the mill and during the attack, aged only 19, he displayed outstanding bravery and played a pivotal role in capturing the position through hand to hand fighting. Howard received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his gallantry that day. The citation appeared in the London Gazette on January 26, 1917:
For conspicuous gallantry in action. With a few men he rushed an enemy machine gun, captured the gun and several prisoners. He set a fine example of coolness and courage.
In March of 1917 Howard was promoted to Corporal and then to Lance Sergeant later that year. In June he returns to England and in August now aged 20, he is posted to No 11 Officer Cadet Battalion at Pirbright for officer training. With little formal education, Howard had done very well to receive a recommendation for a commission, his experience in combat and his DCM undoubtedly qualifying him for the position. On completion of his training and with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant Howard is posted in April 1918 to 2/2nd London Regiment currently at Neuilly.
On August 8, 1918 the 2/2nd Londons are tasked with the capture of Malard Wood, near Chapilly. It was a tough battle, very foggy and the supporting tanks had not arrived leaving the attackers desperately outgunned. Despite this, Howard’s company pressed on without the tanks and he was killed in the advance, last seen leading his men. His body was never recovered and he is listed on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial.
He was 21 years old.
Herbert early in the War.
Herbert after his commission as a 2nd Lt.
This site went live on the 14th February 2015 to mark 100 years since the 1/1st Cambs went off to war.
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