Harold GRICE
Rank: Sergeant
Number: 41796
Unit: 62nd Field Company ROYAL ENGINEERS
Date of Death: 16 July 1916
Age: 21
Cemetery: Avesnes-le-Comte Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France

Harold was the eldest child of John and Hannah of Adcroft Street and Adswood Terrace, Stockport. He enlisted in August 1914, within days of War being declared and was quickly promoted, becoming gymnastic and drill instructor at the Newark Training Camp.

He had been a member of the Stockport Lads' Club and, not surprisingly, was reported to have been of "excellent physique".  Unusually for the Engineers, Harold appears not to have had any particular technical skills and had been employed at the Squirrel Confectionery Works in Heavily. He was keen to "do his bit" and soon asked to be sent on active service. He went overseas in the early part of 1915. The Battle of Loos took place in September 1915 and Harold was reported, in his newspaper obituary, to have been in the Battle. If this was not journalistic licence, then he must have been with another unit at the time as the 62nd Field Company was not at Loos.

On the day he died, Harold and his comrades were based at Dainville, a village about 5 kilometres west of the French town of Arras. He was probably part of No. 3 Section which was billeted in the YMCA hut in the village but were, according to the Company's War Diary undertaking "odd jobs for line". This would be the normal day-to-day maintenance work in the lines of trenches. His officer, Lieutenant Snell, wrote to Hannah Grice telling her what had happened:-

"I wish to express my very deep sympathy with you in the loss of your son. He was walking round the trenches with me to look at various works, when we found ourselves in the midst of a very heavy bombardment by the enemy. A piece of shell casing struck him and penetrated his shrapnel helmet. He was immediately unconscious and I am sure he felt no pain. I was badly shaken by the shock of the bursting shell and when I regained my senses found him lying in the bottom of the trench. I immediately bandaged him up and then went for the stretcher bearers. They arrived shortly after and, with the aid of the Section Corporal, we rendered what aid we could, applying iodine and putting new bandages on the wound. This was rendered very difficult because our trench was practically blown in and the bombardment was getting heavier. We, however, soon got him down to the dressing station; he was then unconscious but I heard later that he died at the hospital the same night at about twelve pm."

At the dressing station, Harold would have received little more attention than having new bandages and he was then evacuated to one of the three casualty clearing stations (field hospital) about 15 kilometres away at Avesnes.

Lieutenant Snell's letter continued " I am sure it will be a comfort to you to know that he was a splendid sergeant, thoroughly efficient in every detail of his work which at all times since he came out has been of a trying and highly dangerous nature. He had no sense of fear and went about regardless of personal safety. In doing or attempting to carry out works in the sector where he remained so long; in every case, where he had to do almost impossible construction work, your son was to the front every time and did a great deal to restore confidence in the working parties. I feel his loss very much and know that I shall not be able to replace him. Please accept the sympathy of all the company in your most heart-breaking grief."

Some weeks after he died, Mr & Mrs Grice must have been surprised to receive a letter, written in French. When they had it translated, they realised it was from the family where he had been billeted for some time "Excuse me if I take the liberty of writing to you. I do it as a duty to express to you our sincere feelings of sympathy and sorrow at the premature death of our dear Sergeant Harold Grice, whom we have known during the period of five months. I cannot tell you in words how deeply I and all of us were grieved when we got to know he had been wounded and had died from his wounds. We shed tears for a few days. He was a good dear boy and we loved him as one of our own while he was amongst us resting and spending his leisure hours; he had his wagons in our farm yard. I assure you as long as his body lay to rest in the cemetery of (censored) I will visit his grave. I have taken some flowers and planted them all over his grave and will continue to do so as long as I live. He was a dear boy to all of us and we loved him and he loved us, especially my children. I expect you have received a photo of Harold and some policemen on horseback, which was taken by son in our farmyard. We have one of them and will keep it as a lasting and precious souvenir. Tomorrow I am going to take some more flowers over his grave. I conclude with expressing to you our sincere condolence. Madame Cavernier and family."

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