Tragedy would come to the Paxton household twice within a week. News would probably have only just reached Stockport about Harold’s death when his older brother, Albert died whilst on home leave from the Marines.
James and Elizabeth Paxton originated from the Salford area and their two eldest children, Annie and Florence, had been born there. About 1890, the family moved to the Cheadle area, probably in connection with James’s work as a guard on the railways. They lived at Adswood Terrace (and, later, at 4 Warren Road). Three more children would be born – Albert (in about 1891), Harold (about 1893) and Arthur (about 1898).
173rd Brigade was formed in 1915 and attached to the 36th (Ulster) Division of the Army. All units of the Army were required to maintain a daily record of activities and these War Diaries are held at the National Archives. However, it has not been possible to trace the Diary of the 173rd and, as such, it is impossible to know precisely what happened on the day Harold died.
The Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) had started on 31 July and it must be assumed that Harold and his comrades were a little way behind the front line in their gun positions shelling the Germans opposite. The History of 36th Division records for August “The counter battery work was ferocious on both sides. For our batteries, there was little concealment and for their guns and teams little shelter. The gunners of 36th Division, who had been in action at the opening of the Battle of Langemarck for over a month, suffered from strain and discomfort perhaps even more severely than the infantry on this occasion.”
There would seem to be little doubt that, on the day he died or perhaps the day before, Harold was badly wounded by the German counter-shelling. He was evacuated to nearby Brandhoek and will have received treatment from military surgeons at one of the field hospitals there but to no avail.