Photograph of Harry in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR4/17/299
(L to R); British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal
Harry was born on the 3rd September 1885 in Oldham, Lancashire. He was baptised at St Peter's Church on the 14th October. His father was called John and his mother was Harriet. Harry was their youngest child; his siblings were John, Alice Ann, Lydia and Ada. The family had lost one other child by 1911.
Harry grew up at 71 Napier Street East in the Werneth area of Oldham. John worked as a machinist and a fitter. In 1901 Harry was an apprentice in the same trade. He seems to have reconsidered his career path over the next 10 years though, and by 1911 he was working as an upholsterer for a gentleman's clothing manufacturer. This may have been Buckley and Procktor Limited, a drapers shop in Mumps, Oldham. We believe he worked there in 1914.
The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Harry joined the Army in November 1915. He joined as part of the Derby Scheme, where a man could enlist then return to his civilian life until he was called up. For Harry the call-up came in March 1916. He was given the service number 33990 and assigned to the 12th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.
We don't know when Harry was sent to France to join the 12th Battalion, or what he did once he was there. They took part in the Somme Offensive between July and November 1916 and fought around Ypres during the Passchendaele Offensive of autumn 1917. They then took part in the defence against the German Spring Offensive of March and April 1918.
By May the Spring Offensive had been defeated and the front line had stabilised. On Sunday the 12th Harry wrote to his sisters Alice and Lydia. He told them that they were 'having nice weather now and at present in a nice village. I am keeping well.' Harry's nephew Edward seems to have been keen to join the Army, but Harry told him 'he has to wait until he is 18' (Edward was John's son. He was born in 1901). His sisters seem to have sent copies of the Oldham Standard newspaper out to him, he had 'received last Saturday's' by the time he wrote the letter. He signed the letter: 'Somewhere in France'
The Allies began a counterattack on the 8th August that soon drove the Germans back. Although they were retreating the Germans still put up heavy resistance and the British lost many men attacking enemy positions. One of these men was Harry. We believe he was wounded during fighting around Bapaume in early September. He was taken to the 38th Casualty Clearing Station in the village of Varennes but could not be saved and died on the 4th September, the day after his 33rd birthday.
Harry was buried in Varennes Military Cemetery, along with 1216 other men. Harry's grave reference is III. F. 20. His medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in October 2007.