Lance Corporal 8649 (Lieutenant) Oscar Michael Hetherington

Oscar was born on 6th March 1894 and attended Seamon’s Moss School.  His parents were Michael and Martha Ann Hetherington, who had married in September 1889.  Michael was employed as an Architectural Draughtsman and the family had two other children, Benjamin and Eva Carradus.  They lived at Whitefield Road, Ashton-on-Mersey.

After leaving school Oscar gained employment at the Co-operative Insurance Service, where he worked as an insurance surveyor from 1910. He was 5’7” tall, weighed 127 pounds, having blue eyes and red hair.  Oscar attended the Baptist Church.

Oscar enlisted in the 2nd City or Pals Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on 3rd September 1914.  He became Private 8649 and was posted to XV Platoon of D Company.  The Battalion was taken over by the War Office and renumbered as 17th Battalion.

17th Bttn XV Pln Photo L Cpl O M Hetherington is in the front row, second from the right.

17th Bttn XV Pln.  L Cpl O M Hetherington is in the front row, second from the right.

Oscar was appointed unpaid Lance Corporal on 9th January 1915 and was paid in this rank from 21st July 1915. He disembarked at Boulogne in France, with 17th Battalion, on 8th November 1915.

 

6b close up of Service Record.1On 14th February 1916 Oscar was found guilty at a Court Martial of being Absent Without Leave on active service.  He was sentenced to three months Field Punishment No. 1.  The sentence was suspended on 5th March and overturned 30th May.  He returned to serve with the Battalion, losing his stripe and reverting to the rank of Private.

There are no detailed records of Oscar’s particular offence, or explanation for his reprieve. It is confirmed that Desertion was a separate – more serious – offence.  In the six weeks previous to his Court Martial, 17th Battalion had been serving in the Somme trenches, near Maricourt and Vaux; with periods of rest in billets at Suzanne.  Oscar must have been identified as being absent from the post where he was expected to have been present.

Oscar was wounded on 5th May, when D Company had been defending the trenches in Vaux Wood.  On this day Private 8563 Harry Foden of Oscar’s  XV Platoon was killed by shell fire, when he was on sentry duty.  Oscar was probably wounded at a similar time, along with three other members of the Battalion.  Harry was buried in Suzanne Communal Cemetery Extension and Oscar was evacuated Home, arriving on 12th May 1916.

Following treatment, Oscar was transferred to 25th (Training Reserve) Battalion at Altcar on 11th August 1916.  On 1st September he received a posting to 69th (Training Reserve) Battalion, although this was subsequently cancelled.

Oscar was transferred to No 8 Officer Cadet Battalion in Lichfield on 4th November 1916.  He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant on 1st March 1917*1 and posted to 19th Battalion on 14th March 1917.    His arrival in the field is not identified in the War Diary.

 

From 4th April 1917, his Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Leslie Macdonald, who had previously been Officer Commanding D Company, in 17th Battalion.  19th Battalion were training near Beaumetz and later moved to Arras, where they took part in heavy fighting during April 1917.

Oscar was wounded in the opening of the Passchendaele offensive on 31st July 1917.  After treatment in France for wounds to his left shoulder and buttock, Oscar evacuated Home again.

 

After recovery Oscar was posted to 3rd Battalion and attached to the Royal Air Force on 7th November 1918.  He was posted to 14 Training Squadron and didn’t return to France.  He was promoted to Lieutenant on 1st September 1918 *2 and served in various Training Schools.  He appears to have spent two week in Hospital in Hull during August 1918 and is known to have flown nearby in Beverley. There are records indicating Oscar was unfit for general service from July 1918. He returned to 3rd Manchesters on 11th April 1919.

8h Oscar in Sopwith Camel at Beverley E Yorks 1918.jpg

Oscar is recorded as attending Aberdeen University to study Science in 1919.  On 27th February 1920 her sailed from London for Madras in India on board SS Chindwara.  He worked on a tea plantation at Seni Kundara, Valaparai in South India.  Oscar relinquished his commission on 1st September 1921, but re-applied for a commission in the India Reserve of Officers on 6th June 1928. He held the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Indian Army as an Emergency commission on 18th August 1942.  Oscar must have visited England in 1926, when he married Kathleen Dearnley in North Cheshire.

Oscar and Kathleen returned to Plymouth from Bombay on 28th October 1945.  He held the rank of Captain served as a Recruiting Officer.  On 18th August 1946, Oscar was living at Northenden Road, Sale.  He sailed to Jamaica from Bristol on board SS Aiguani on 18th August 1946.  He travelled without his wife, intending to take up up the position of an estate manager.  Having returned to England, Oscar sailed for Jamaica again on 15th September 1946, on board SS Atlantis, from Southampton.

At some stage Oscar wrote a speech about Military leadership.  He provided an interesting anecdote about his Officer Commanding setting the example of bravery under fire.  The officer had ordered his Company to take cover under German artillery fire, yet he had remained on his horse.  When Oscar led his Platoon near Ypres, similar circumstances arose. He believed he was riding the biggest horse in the Army and somehow managed not to fall off.

Oscar died in Alverstoke, Hampshire in January 1978. Kathleen died in 1997, aged 91.

Younger brother Benjamin enlisted as Private 3451 in 6th Battalion Manchester Regiment on his 18th Birthday; 3rd May 1915.  He embarked to join 1/6th Battalion on 8th October and disembarked on 23rd October 1915. Ben may  have been a reinforcement in Gallipoli, or possibly served in Egypt where he was present in January 1916.  The Battalion subsequently arrived in France during March 1917.  He was gassed in August 1917 and appears to have been evacuated Home.  The Territorial Battalions were renumbered in 1917 and Ben had received the new Regimental Number 250997.  Ben was commissioned in the Territorial Force of the Manchester Regiment on 9th October 1918 *3 and subsequent to the Armistice, he was posted to 9th Battalion in France.  Ben lived at his parent’s address in 1921/22.

Eva Carradus Hetherington served  in the Voluntary Aid Detachment.  Eva joined the Red Cross in July 1916 and left on 28th February 1919.  Eva was a nurse at the 98 bed Hospital at Heyesleigh annexe, Pickering Lodge, Timperley.  She married Robert Stephenson Hamilton Irwin in 1924.  Robert had served in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and Kings Shropshire Light Infantry. Eva died in 1980.

8g OMH Family photo 1917_18 IMG_0255

Family Photo L-R Father, Michael; Oscar; Eva; Ben and Mother, Martha Hetherington. Credit Caroline Wilson

Notes

*1 LG 26/3/1917
*2 LG 4/3/1919
*3 LG 14/10/1918

 

Acknowledgements

John Hartley

Caroline Wilson – Oscar Hetherington’s grandaughter.

City Battalions Book of Honour

Officer’s Service File at National Archives (NA)

War Diaries from NA

Other Military Records at NA

Manchester Regiment Forum

https://www.abdn.ac.uk/special-collections/roll-of-honour/1570/

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