Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Harold Whitehead

Harold Whitehead :

Harold Whitehead : (L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; Military Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal, Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; Military Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal, Allied Victory Medal

Harold was born in 1896 and lived on Copster Hill Road in Oldham. His mother and father, Sarah and Joseph, were Wesleyan Methodists. His father worked in the cotton industry as a twiner minder, and most of the family including Harold went on to work in the mills. Harold had six siblings - Elizabeth, James, Samuel, Hannah, Joseph and William.

Harold joined the Army on the 12th November 1914 at the age of 18 years and 169 days old. At the time of joining he is described as being 5 foot 3 inches tall with brown hair and eyes. He was given the service number 14178 and joined the 24th (Service) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Also known as the Oldham Pioneers, the battalion had a specialist role building and reinforcing trenches and other defensive fortifications, as well as preparing the ground for infantry assaults. Harold served with the pioneers in France from November 1915 to May 1916.

At some point Harold transferred to the 2/9th Battalion and spent a second period in France from June 1917 until the end of the war. Harold was promoted four times during this time – to Lance Corporal in October 1917, Corporal in December 1917, Sergeant on the 3rd April 1918, and Colour Sergeant on the 26th April 1918.

Harold was also awarded two gallantry medals during this period. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in June 1918 for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.’

When the platoon was without an officer and the platoon sergeant was evacuated sick, he took over the command of the platoon, though only a lance-corporal at the time and under heavy fire and difficult conditions, he displayed much courage and organising ability of a high order.

He was also awarded a Military Medal on the 27th June 1918. The reasons for this medal being given to him are not detailed.

Harold was demobilised on the 10th July 1919 and it appears he returned to his life working in the cotton industry. He married Ethel on the 27th August 1921 at Hollins Methodist Church. In 1939 he was living at 346 Hollins Road in Oldham and working as a cotton spinner. Harold passed away in March 1978 and is buried at Hollinwood cemetery in Oldham.

Harold’s medals were donated to the museum collections in 2013.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 342 5480
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council