Harry’s father, Robert Alcock, was born in Staffordshire; his mother, Emma, in Stretford. The 1901 Census shows them living in Stockport and Robert, then aged 44, worked as a blacksmith. Emma was 47. Harry, then aged 16, was working as a tailor’s assistant but later went to work in his father’s wheelwright business at Astley Street, Heaton lane, Stockport.
Between October and December 1903, he married Jane Elizabeth Heywood at St Mark’s Church, Bredbury. After the war, she was living at 60 Stafford Street in the Higher Hillgate area of town. It’s not known if this is the home she shared with Harry.
Harry enlisted into the army between May and July 1915 and will have gone overseas a few months later, after training. The Battalion took part on the early stages of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 and Harry is thought to have come through this unscathed.
Harry died, at an army field hospital, after being gassed. Examining the Battalion’s War Diary confirms that the gassing must have taken place on the 22nd, as the following extract, which starts on 21 February, confirms:-
“Left Rosieres for trenches 3.15pm. Mud terrible. Whole Battalion got stuck in communication trench “Lunette II” and were there for several hours. About 11.30pm started over the top – guides (French) had gone away and great difficulty was experienced in getting men to the right trenches. Gum boots, thigh, had been issued before leaving Rosieres but many of these were lost in the mud – also some rifles and equipment. In the trenches, the mud 2 to 3 feet deep. Many men arrived with no boots or socks – all their feet had been rubbed with oil before leaving Rosieres.
Enemy put over two gas clouds about 7pm. French had a few casualties but we had none. Again at 6am, on 22nd, he put over gas. Three of our men, “Y” Company, being gassed. Relief was complete by 2pm, but men very exhausted. No rations available, except iron rations.”
Harry must have been one of the three men in “Y” Company. He will have been evacuated from the front line to either 13th or 39th Casualty Clearing Station which were based at Cerisy, some kilometres to the rear. He will have been examined by army doctors and a decision was probably taken that there was nothing that could be done to save him (otherwise he would have been further evacuated to a base hospital). They will have made him as comfortable as possible but he died four days later.