This biography was written by Stephen Roberts.
Harold’s name appears on the Loos Memorial to the Missing – a site which is associated with the appalling battles which occurred in that area during 1915, when the British Army was in the early stages of mastering its craft on the Western Front. It is famous for bearing the name of Captain Fergus Bowes Lyon of the 8th Black Watch (1889-1915), brother of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and the grave of John Kipling (1897-1915), son of Rudyard Kipling, the Poet Laureate. However, Harold was killed in April 1918 during the German Spring Offensive, which eventually exhausted the Kaiser’s Army and enabled the final Allied Victory in November. Harold has no known grave. Indeed, a note on his service papers, dated 6th July 1918, states, ‘We have no record of this officer’s body having been recovered.’ If he ever had been buried in one piece, his resting place had probably been destroyed by subsequent fighting and bombardments.
Harold belonged to a typical middle class Merseyside family of the day. His father William (born in 1868 in Liverpool) was a dealer in ‘canned goods’. Readers of previous posts on this blog will already be aware of how many officers from the West Kirby and Hoylake area had a similar background.
Harold was born on Christmas Day 1892 and christened at Egremont on 5th March 1893. By 1901, he was living with his family at 30 Sandwich Road, Liscard with his father, Mother Ethel (nee Walker, born in Egremont in about 1865), sister Dorothy (aged 2, born in ‘Upper Brighton’) and a 20 year old servant from Wales called Mary A. Jones. By 1911, the family was residing at ‘The Heathers’, a six roomed house in Heswall – not one of the larger properties, but a comfortable dwelling for a reasonably prosperous family. By this time, Harold had a brother called Charles (born in about 1902) and his uncle George Crighton, aged 45 (another Liverpool Merchant) was also in residence. Harold was working as a bank clerk. There were no servants.Harold’s service papers tell us that he attended King William’s College on the Isle of Man. Harold began his military career as a lance corporal in the Officers’ Training Corps of the Inns of Court with the service number 10499. At some point before 1914, he must, therefore, have begun to train to be a lawyer. On 15th January 1917 he began serving with 1/10 Battalion the King’s Liverpool Regiment (The Liverpool Scottish) as a Second Lieutenant on a temporary commission. He was recorded as being 5′ 11″ tall, as weighing 11 stone and as having a chest measurement of 32 1/2″ with a 4″ expansion – clearly a very lean and athletic young man. At that time, his address was ‘The Willows’, Park Lane, Great Meols.
The relevant battalion war diary summarises the experiences of Harold’s unit during April 1918. It was under heavy attack from the 2nd when the Germans had bombarded it with gas shells. Unusual orders were received from the division, requiring every man to ‘fire five rounds S.A.A. (small arms ammunition) daily and this routine was consequently put in place.’ Snipers were busy on both sides and on 8th April, the battalion was moved to Mesplaux Farm. On 9th April, it received heavy casualties from enemy shelling and on 10th April ‘Z’ Company was attacked three times during the day, but managed not only on every occasion to beat the enemy back, but also to capture two machine guns and ten prisoners. It seems likely that this was Harold’s company as he died at the end of that day or possibly in the early hours of the next. It would seem that he had fought hard with his men, but, sadly, there is no description of the exact circumstances surrounding his death. The war diary merely finishes the month with a list of casualties: four officers killed, seven wounded and one missing; and 81 other ranks killed, 177 wounded and 263 missing – bland dispassionate numbers which tell us nothing about the grief and worry experienced by hundreds of family members back on Merseyside.
Harold’s will was proved on 23rd July 1918. He left £472 19s to his mother, Ethel.Notes
Birth: 25th December 1892 in Egremont
Death: 10th/11th April 1918, killed in action near Givenchy
Addresses: 30 Sandwich Road, Liscard (01), ‘The Heathers’, Heswall (11), ‘The Willows’ 10 Park Lane, Great Meols (17)
Occupation: Bank Clerk (11), Trainee Lawyer
OTC Inns of Court to 1917, then 10th Battalion The King’s (Liverpool Regiment), ‘The Liverpool Scottish’
Number and Rank: 10499, Lance Corporal to 1917, then Second Lieutenant
Medals: British War and Victory
Commemorated and Buried: GH, H, France: Loos Memorial Panel 27 to 30
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, DA, SR (WO374/16591), Prob., Census: 01, 11