British War Medal
Harold was born between July and September 1889 in Barton, Manchester. His father was called Charles and his mother was Mary. Harold was part of a large family. Alice, Ethel, Charles, Grace and Elsie were all older than him, and Fred, Dorothy, Cyril and Percy were younger. When Harold was a baby the family lived at 6 Harper's Street in Stretford, Manchester and by 1901 they were living at 12 Bentley Street in Hulme, Manchester.
In 1911 Harold was living with his sister Ethel, who had married Ernest Taylor. They lived at 11 Orvil Street in Hulme. Harold was an Import Clerk for a shipping merchant.
At some point Harold had been a member of a Volunteer unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps. We don't have any details of this service. He had finished his service and left by 1914.
When the First World War broke out in August 1914 he was working for Heyn Franc and Company, based at 4 Chepstow Street in Manchester.
Harold was one of hundreds of thousands of men who decided to join a 'Pals' unit of the British Army so that he could serve with people from the same area and background as him. On the 2nd September he enlisted into the 1st City Battalion, raised in Manchester. When the Army took over this unit it became the 16th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Harold received the service number 6711 and was assigned to Number 9 Platoon, in C Company.
The record of Harold's medical examination has survived, and so we know that when he joined the Army Harold was 5 feet 5 1/4 inches tall and weighed 115 pounds. He had excellent vision, 6/6 in each of his grey eyes. His hair was auburn in colour.
In April 1915, whilst he was training with the 16th Battalion, Harold married Sarah Ellen Blagburgh at Stretford Parish Church. Their daughter Muriel was born on the 28th May 1916. Harold was not there to see his new baby, he had been sent to France with the 16th Battalion on the 8th November 1915.
Harold stayed with the 16th Battalion until he was sent back to the UK on the 9th July 1916. This means he would almost certainly have been with them on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, on the 1st. We don't know why Harold left his unit.
Harold was to stay in the UK until April 1917. We know he spent some time in the Training Reserve because he was given one of their service numbers: TR/3/25674. Men would stay in this force until they were needed by the Army in France. Harold was sent over on the 18th April and we believe he joined the 12th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment; we know he was serving with them by the 18th December when he was appointed to be an unpaid Lance Corporal.
On the 21st March 1918 the German Army launched a huge offensive against the British and French Armies. They hoped to win the war before too many American troops could arrive to fight them. At first the attack was extremely successful. Many Allied units were cut off, and thousands of soldiers were killed or captured. Harold was one of these soldiers. On the 1st May his mother Mary received a notification from the Army that Harold was missing. The Army had written that Mary was his wife, so it is quite likely that Sarah and Muriel were living with her. He had actually been captured on the 23rd March and was a Prisoner of War (POW).
Harold remained a POW for the rest of the war. He was repatriated back to the British on Christmas Eve 1918 and returned to the UK. We don't know where he was held during his time in captivity.
It was not until the 25th March 1919 that Harold was released from the Army. He was transferred to the Class Z Reserve, so he could have been called back if the Armistice signed with Germany had collapsed and fighting had broken out again.
Harold went to live at 23 Chorlton Road in Hulme, where Mary and probably Sarah and Muriel had been when he was captured.
We don't know what Harold did for the rest of his life. We believe he died in Durham in 1957 when he was 67 years old. Sarah lived until 1980, when she was 90 years old.
As well as his British War Medal Harold earned the 1914-15 Star and the Allied Victory Medal for his Army service.