Gunning, Herbert Hayes

Herbert Hayes Gunning was born in 1895 in Southport, Merseyside, and he was the only child of John Edward Gunning and Mary Alice (Hayes).

On 23rd August, 1897, when Herbert was just under two years old, his mother Mary Alice, who was born in Runcorn and known as ‘Lallie’, died at the age of 27. She was buried in Duke Street Cemetery, Southport in the grave of her father-in-law William.

Mr Gunning married again at Ormskirk in 1900 to Bertha Hardman. At this time they were living at 34, Maple Street, Southport, and Mr Gunning was employed as a letterpress printer.

In about 1902 Mr Gunning and his family had moved to Flint, where he was conducting a successful business as a newsagent and stationer, and as a printer at the Borough Printing Works in Church Street. Their residence was next door at Avondale, 17, Church Street.

Herbert was educated at Holywell County School and on leaving became a Printer and typograph operator in the employ of his father. He was unmarried.

He enlisted in Liverpool on 10th September, 1915 and his service record is as follows:

He was 5ft 11ins, 148lb, chest 34ins and his vision and physical development were good. Home base, 10th September, 1915 to 1st March, 1916; embarked Southampton, 2nd March, 1916; disembarked Rouen, 3rd March, 1916; joined unit 16th March, 1916; hospital (measles) and transferred to Isolation Hospital, 22nd March, 1916; Meerut British General Hospital, 27th March, 1916; 55 Division Base Depot, 6th April, 1916; joined unit, 14th May, 1916; his personal items sent home which his father received on 1st February, 1917 were: 1 wallet containing letters, cards & photos, 1 testament, 1 metal wrist watch in case.

In April 1916, at a Military hearing at the Town Hall, Flint, Mr Gunning asked for absolute exemption to be granted Edgar Vaughan Jones, 26, married with two children, residing in Hill Street, Flint, and who was in his employ as a printer and typograph operator. Jones was an attested man, and he was the only man he had left in his employ. His son Herbert was the operator before he enlisted in the army, and much of the work on the premises was for important establishments in the district. His son would have joined the army earlier but for the fact he had to train Jones in the use of the typograph machine. In his defence Mr Gunning said: “The work which I am doing is really indispensable and essential for the community,” and added, “The work was chiefly for the factories, and as the printing trade was upset throughout the whole country it was impossible to obtain another typograph operator. If Jones went he would require two other men to carry on the work and it would be really impossible to obtain them.” The Tribunal granted six months’ conditional exemption, dating from that day. The exemption was granted conditionally that Jones remained at that trade.

Herbert was killed in action by a shell in France on 3rd September, 1916. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France (Pier and Face 1 D, 8 B and 8 C).

He is remembered on four war memorials: Flint Town, the English Presbyterian Chapel, Chester Road, Flint, Holywell County School and Southport Town. He is also remembered on his parents’ headstone at Duke Street Cemetery, Southport (Grave 473, Section 2) and is commemorated on the North Wales Heroes’ Memorial Arch, Bangor. He was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

On Sunday, 10th September information reached the Borough, through the source of a letter, to the effect that Private Gunning had been killed in action. A member of the same regiment, and who knew Private Gunning, had forwarded the base information to a friend and his mother, but regretted he was unable to send details of the announcement. Much anxiety had, therefore, been experienced by Mr and Mrs Gunning. From Monday morning almost every possible means had been resorted to for the purposes of securing more intelligence from the Battalion officials, but up to Wednesday afternoon nothing of a definite character from that quarter could be ascertained. To add to the anxiety of the parents and friends it would appear that no letters had been received from Private Gunning for some time, and that had he been with the Battalion, or even a prisoner in the hands of the enemy, there would have been probably tidings of his whereabouts before this. No communication had been received from any of the officers or the chaplain to the Battalion, and consequently further news of Private Gunning was anxiously awaited.

On Friday morning, a letter was received from a friend in the Birkenhead locality in which there was an intimation from another source referring in touching terms to rumours or statements concerning Private Gunning. However, about noon of the same day a telegraphic message was received by Mr Gunning from the officer commanding Private Gunning’s regiment communicating the assurance that the Private had been killed by a shell on the date named, and that his remains had been interred. The message concluded: “Please accept assurance of respectful sympathy.”

Thus, another youthful and promising young life of the Borough had been sacrificed on the battle field, for King and country. Private Gunning, sometime after the commencement of the war, when there was proceeding a depletion of the young men’s circles of the Borough owing to the pressing claims of the army, combined with the patriotic waves, expressed the feeling that he would be prepared to join the military forces. Time advanced, and eventually he became a member of the said regiment, and after training he left for the Front.

For a long period he officiated as organist of the English Presbyterian Church and Sunday School, and was the honorary secretary of the Library and Debating Society connected with that church. In everything that tended to progress of the church he was associated with his parents; and he was not only esteemed for his kindliness of disposition by the members and friends of the church and Sunday School but by a large circle of intimate friends in the Borough, and by whom his death is lamented. When he was last seen in the Borough he presented a fine, soldierly appearance.

When Mr Gunning retired in 1919 it was reported he did so solely on account of his health and after resting in Flint for about a month he and his wife left to live in Southport. The business was disposed of, and was formerly transferred to Mr Edwin Williams, The Cross, Mold. Whilst living in Flint he was a prominent and active member of the Chester Road English Presbyterian Church. Mr Gunning was a staunch Liberal in politics. Born in Liverpool, he died on 10th March, 1936, aged 69, at his home, 23, Pilkington Road, Southport, and is buried with his first wife.

When Mr Gunning retired, Edgar Vaughan Jones (brother of Corporal Harold Jones – see Volume Two) set himself up in business as a printer in a shop situated at the rear of the Royal Oak Hotel, which can still be seen today. When Mr Jones retired, it was his son, Edgar Vaughan junior who inherited the business which, for many years, was run from the old Baptist Chapel at the top of Church Street.

Mr Gunning’s second wife, Bertha, died in 1944, aged 72, at a Southport Nursing Home, and was buried with her husband.

Learn more about the other soldiers on the Flint Memorial

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