Private Louis Francois Hillebrand – 17th Manchester’s Dutchman Died 22/5/1918

Having contributed to the Flickr account of the Manchester Regiment Group’s Photostream, new opportunities continue to be found to build the photographic collection of graves and commemorations for men who served in the Manchester Regiment.

These trips correspond with social or family obligations, but I recently took a 17 year old on a driving lesson to a cemetery in north west London and passed by the former home of the man concerned. The memory of every man who lost his life in WWI is important, but Louis Hillebrand is certainly different.

Louis Hillebrand was born in Amsterdam in 1878. His father Johannas is noted as a locksmith and his mother was Dorothea Hulna D’Enville.  At some stage Louis moved to Britain, resident at  52 Market Place, Hyde Park when he was naturalised a British Citizen and noted as a hairdresser.  On 29th July that year he married Selina Young in St Michael and All Angels Church, Paddington.  Selina was a school teacher and two years older than Louis.  Limited records suggest the couple had two boys in 1912, Felix Francois and Stephen Louis.  The family 12 Conniningham Road, Golders Green, NW11were living at 12 Conningham Road, Golders Green in 1918.

At the outbreak of the Great War, Louis would not have been an average recruit.  His employment as a hairdresser in his mid 30s with two children explains why he was not in the first groups of men to enlist.  The date he joined the Army is not known, but records show Louis enlisted in Cricklewood.  He may have been held in reserve for some time and probably arrived in France in 1917.  At this stage he will have been attached to the Manchester Regiment and transferred to 19th Battalion, receiving the number 51183.*1

The 19th Battalion took part in numerous actions during hostilities, many corresponding with their 17th Battalion comrades.  Louis’ Roll for his British War Medal and Victory Medals indicates  service in both of these Battalions.  This probably relates to the 19th Battalion being absorbed in the 16th or 17th Battalions in February 1918.  This transfer renders it difficult to seek to identify an enlistment date, but analysis of the Regimental Numbers suggests men with this sequence probably first saw action at Ypres on 31st July 1917.*2

51183 Louis Francois Hillebrand 17th Bttn Paddington Old Cemetery, KilburnAs some stage Louis was wounded and evacuated Home.  He was being treated in Brook War Hospital, Shooters Hill in south London when he died of wounds on 22nd May 1918.  He is buried in Paddington Old Cemetery, Kilburn – a few miles south of the family home in Golders Green.  It’s possible he suffered wounds earlier, but most likely this was during the withdrawal from St Quentin during the German spring offensive of March 1918 or the Spoil Bank at Ypres in the next month.

*1 The Manchesters did not recruit in London and it’s likely Louis arrived at Etaples Infantry Brigade Depot to find himself promptly moved to the 19th Manchesters who will have been in need of replacement drafts of men who regularly joined them through 1916-1918.  He may have originally enlisted for General Service, Middlesex Regiment or other London based Regiment.

*2 There is one casualty in the number sequence who was killed 31/3/1917.

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