Photograph of Henry in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MRP/3B/024
(L to R) 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaves; Delhi Durbar 1911 Medal; French Medaille Militaire (3rd Republic variant)
Henry was born on the 27th December 1887 in Clapham, South West London. He was baptised at St James' Parish Church in Clapham on the 27th May 1888. His father was called Alfred and his mother was Esther. He had one sister that we know of. Her name was Ellen Jane and she was born on the 20th January 1890. She was baptised in the same church on the 27th April.
Alfred worked as a labourer when his son was born. We don't know anything about Henry's early life.
In late 1901 or early 1902, shortly after his 14th birthday, Henry joined the Army. He chose to join the Manchester Regiment and was given the service number 7462. The Army recruited boys from the age of 14 to serve as drummers, buglers and trumpeters. Henry would be classed as a 'Boy' until his 18th birthday. During this time he will have had music lessons and a more general education, as well as military training. Boys were kept under stricter supervision than adult soldiers.
We don't know anything about Henry's service until the end of 1911. In this year he was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Kamptee in India, and held the rank of Private.
In later life Henry was remembered as 'A Company (1st Battalion) storeman for many years'. It is likely that this refers to this period. A storeman looked after the company's supplies of clothing and equipment, and helped more senior personnel distribute them when they were needed.
The battalion left Kamptee that December to take part in the Delhi Durbar. At this ceremony King George V, the newly crowned Emperor of India, received his Indian subjects. The 1st Battalion took part in the Durbar itself on the 12th, and the spectacular military parade on the 14th. It also provided many guards of honour for dignitaries. A total of 100 Delhi Durbar 1911 Medals were allocated to the 1st Battalion, and one of them went to Henry.
After the Durbar was over Henry and the 1st Battalion moved to Jullundur in the modern Indian Punjab. The photograph of Henry was taken in 1913, when he was a member of C Company's tug of war team. They were the 1st Battalion inter-company champions. At some point after this he left the 1st Battalion.
The First World War began on the 4th August 1914. We don't know whether Henry was a Reservist or still serving when the war began.
Henry arrived in France on the 19th September. Around 170 men joined the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment a few days later, and it is likely he was one of them. Many of them were Reservists and Special Reservists who had been called back to the Army from civilian life when war broke out.
The 2nd Battalion had landed in France on the 15th August. They took heavy casualties on the 26th at the Battle of Le Cateau. For the next few months after Henry joined them they were involved in heavy fighting as they tried to stop the German advance.
Henry was a member of the Manchester Regiment throughout the war, but we can't say for certain which battalion he served with. We also don't know whether he was wounded at any point.
Later in the war Henry was Mentioned in Despatches in the London Gazette of the 15th June 1916. His rank was given as Lance Corporal. The next year, on the 31st August 1917, he was awarded the French Medaille Militaire (Military Medal) for bravery in action. He had been promoted to Corporal by then. The citations for these awards have not survived, so we don't know what Henry did to earn them.
The war ended in November 1918 and the Army began to reduce in size. It still needed soldiers though, so it began to offer large financial incentives to men willing to sign on for an extra 2, 3 or 4 years. During June 1919 Henry was given a new service number, 89474, so it is quite likely that he took advantage of this offer.
After his new number was allocated Henry served with the 1st Battalion. This was based in the Aldershot area during the second half of 1919. We know Henry was still with the battalion on the 1st February 1920, but his career after this is a mystery. The battalion was sent to Ireland in April 1920 and soon found itself fighting in the Irish War of Independence.
After Henry left the Army he returned to the London area. In around 1929 he went to work for W. T. Henley Limited, a company that manufactured telegraph cables and accessories that helped workers install, operate and maintain them. Their head office was in the City of London. He worked for them for at least 20 years, and was a 'valued member of staff'.
We don't know when Henry first joined the Manchester Regiment Old Comrade's Association (OCA). In 1936 he was thanked for making a donation to the Association. After the Second World War ended in 1945 Henry seems to have become a much more active member.
By this time Henry was married. His wife was Rose Elizabeth Verbeeren. Their wedding took place between October and December 1941 in the Lambeth area of south London. Rose was 50 when they married, and Henry was 53, so they had no children.
The London Branch of the OCA began holding monthly meetings in mid 1947. Henry was at the first, on the 9th July at the 'Bunch of Grapes' pub on The Strand. He became a regular attender.
In mid 1949 Henry fell ill. His doctors ordered him to avoid drinking alcohol. This forced him to miss the 1949 OCA Reunion, as 'he felt that to attend would have been too hard a temptation!' He seems to have recovered from this illness, but around a year later he suffered an accident at work. This meant he had to spend 'a short time in hospital'. His friends were 'pleased to learn that he is now making a good recovery'.
Henry attended the new Queen Elizabeth's Royal Review of Ex Servicemen in Hyde Park on the 5th July 1953, alongside many of his comrades from the OCA.
In the London Branch's February 1955 newsletter they reported that Henry was 'laid low with bronchitis and the doctor won't let him touch strong liquor'. His health seems to have remained poor for the rest of his life and he died on the 26th January 1959 'after a long illness'. He was 72. Henry died at home, 21 Dulwich Road in Herne Hill, south London. We believe Rose died aged 85 between January and March 1977.
Henry's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in February 1959.