The Men from Hyde – Cecil Henry Offer

Cecil Henry Offer was born in on the 9th of February 1893 his birthplace being named at St John’s parish on his army record.  In the census of 1901 his father Albert is not present and Sophia, named head of the family and a needlewoman living at 72 Cannon Street. Sophia, born 1862, from Cheriton and Albert from ? were married in 1883. By 1901 Sophia had given birth to Albert 15 years of age, an under gardener, Ernest George 13 years of age and a paper boy, Ethel aged 9 years Cecil then 8 years of age, Fred 6 years old and baby Alice Rose. Albert is however given as the father on the school admission register so may still be around but not residing at the family home.

By the 1911 census we still have no news of Albert, but Sophia at 49 years of age is still head of the family and continuing with her sewing and needlework. Her marital status is given as separated then crossed out and married written. It looks highly likely that she was separated from before 1901 but wished to keep up appearances. Of 7 children she has given birth to, 6 survive. The family have moved t 29 Canon Street where she lived with Cecil, now 18 years, single and a laboratory assistant at Winchester College. He had made good use of his education at St. Thomas Higher School. Frederick is 16 years old and a butcher. Where Ernest, Ethel and Alice Rose are is unknown. It looks though as if the older children have left home and sadly the baby did not survive. Certainly life must have been a huge struggle for this family.  Cecil had been allowed to continue his education where other families would have taken the child out of school and found them a job to help support the family. His income from working at the College although not great, would have substantially helped the family and it is reasonable to suppose that his mother at least was very proud of him.

Cecil also enlisted in The Hampshire Territorials, training regularly at the Hall (NAME?) near the station. It was natural then that at the beginning of the war, Cecil enlisted in the Hampshire Regiment in and was attached to 1/4th Battalion. His service number was 4/1686 which was incorrectly renumbered later to 200116.

Following training he was first sent to India and then on to face the Turkish forces in what we now call Iraq. His story mirrors those of Bendle, Loveland, Munt and Gilmour He was killed in action at the battle of Umm El Hanna on  21st January 1916.  Initially he was posted as ‘missing’ however a note in the regimental Diary notes that ‘ The absolute accuracy of all dates etc. prior to January 21st cannot be guaranteed as the notes for this period were apparently on the body of Capt. A.C. Brandon (Killed in Action 21/1/1916) and were never recovered. Obviously anyone killed that day was not recorded in the confusion of a serious defeat. There were 231 men and 13 officers killed, died of wounds or missing that day.

Cecil had risen to the rank of Sergeant. He is commemorated on the Basra Memorial and the memorials at St. Bartholomew’s and St Michael’s churches.

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