Donald Harlow BUDENBERG
Rank: Captain
Service Number:N/A.
Regiment: 4th Bn. attd. 17th Bn. Manchester Regiment
Killed In Action Thursday 25th April 1918
Age 21
County Memorial Marple
Commemorated\Buried Perth Cemetery ( China Wall )
Grave\Panel Ref: I.H.4.

Donald Harlow's Story.

Born on 13 July 1896 Donald was the son of a wealthy mechanical engineer, Christian Frederick Budenberg and his wife, Janet Somerville. When the 1901 Census was taken, the family was living at a house called "Somerville" in Marple. Donald was their second son, then aged four, His 8 year old brother was Christian. Also living there were two aunts - Florence Harlow and Eleanor Hartley. Donald's income was sufficient for them to be able to employ two live-in servants - Annie Scott, the cook and Minnie Sandstrom, the housemaid. The Harlow side of the family is thought to be related to the well-known Stockport family of the same name which owned Robert Harlow & Sons Ltd - a brass and iron works in Heaton Norris.

The family firm of Schaeffer and Budenberg had been formed in Germany in the mid-1800s and had started trading in Britain in 1858 when an office was opened in Manchester. The main business of the company was in the manufacture of pressure gauges. In 1896, new works were built at Whitworth Street, Manchester but, in 1914, these were moved to Broadheath, Altrincham. The Company would be taken over by the Government for War production shortly after.

By 1911 Donald was at Clifton College - a boarding school in Bristol and then at Manchester University. When War was declared in August 1914, he was at Trinity College, Cambridge. Whilst at Trinity, he had joined the Officers Training Corps and, on 29 July 1916, he enlisted into the army as an officer cadet.

He became a 2nd Lieutenant later in the autumn and went overseas to join the Battalion. The war diary shows that he joined them on the 22nd January 1917. He took part in the Battalion's attack on 31 July: the opening day of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) and came through unscathed. The next month he was given a period of leave and he returned to Marple where he unveiled a plaque at All Saint's Church to the memory of his cousin, Bernard Hartley who had been killed the previous year.

In February 1918, Donald was again on leave for a short period. On his way back to France, he was taken ill at Folkestone and was in hospital there until 4 April. He re-joined the 17th a couple of days later. Towards the end of March, the Germans had started a large-scale offensive. The 17th had been in the thick of it and had suffered many casualties. In fact, the casualties had been so high in the previous weeks that Donald's command was a “composite company" formed by merging the surviving members of "C" and "D" Companies together. "A" and "B" were also merged and the two new units were joined with a similar number of men from the 16th Battalion.

On the 19th, the troops were ordered to the support line on the Ypres Canal where they took up a defensive position between Spoil Bank and Lock 8. On 20th Donald received a slight wound but was able to remain on duty. The morning of the 25th, the Germans renewed their attack forcing back the front line. Effectively Donald and his men were now the front line. He led a determined counter attack, which halted the Germans, allowing the rest of the Battalion to form a defensive flank. The war diary reads:

25/4/18 Enemy attacked and forced back the battalion south of Ypres-Comines canal. (C&D companies made into one composite company) counter attacked and restored the situation on this front. 2nd Lt D.H BUDENBURG was killed whilst gallantly leading the counter attack.

His Commanding officer wrote: “I had known your son for some little time when I was with the 17th Battalion and I saw and heard nothing but good of him. I have heard and seen examples of his personal courage, and have no hesitation in saying that he was the most promising officer in the battalion.”

When the fighting subsided a few days later, there will have time to bury Donald near to where he died. After the War, in 1919, many of these small front line burial areas were closed as the land was returned to civilian use. The War Office then wrote to Donald's father "I beg to inform you that in the process of exhumation for the purposes of concentration of isolated graves into cemeteries, the grave of 2nd Lieutenant D H Budenberg was located 2000 yards east of Voormezeele and his remains have been re-interred in Perth China Wall Cemetery, Zillebeke, south east of Ypres. The new grave has been duly marked with a cross bearing all particulars and registered with this office. The reburial has been carefully and reverently carried out."  In due course, the Imperial War Graves Commission took over the care of war cemeteries. Headstones replaced the original wooden crosses. Donald's is inscribed "A very gentle perfect knight".

In October 1930, after a trip to Belgium to visit Donald's grave, Mr Budenberg wrote to the War Office "....He is described on his gravestone at Perth Cemetery, Zillebeke, as "Captain" and was acting in that capacity at the time of his death. Will you kindly tell me whether his acting rank of Captain was ever gazetted."  There is now no record of a reply in Donald's file at the National Archives but his promotion was officially published in the London Gazette in its edition of 15 July 1918.

Thank you to John Hartley and Roger Budenberg