The Williams family came from Atherstone in Warwickshire and Harry and his younger brother Thomas were born there. By the time of the 1901 Census, the family had moved to Stockport and Harry, aged 21, was working as a felt hat finisher. His father, also called Henry, was pursuing the same trade. Thomas, 16, was an errand boy for a local grocer. There was another brother, Freddy, who does not appear on the Census.
In later life, Harry changed careers, becoming a house painter. By the time war broke out, Harry had married Jane and they were living at 1 (or 13) Hallam Street, Stockport, with their four children.
He enlisted at Stockport on 10 September 1914 and was one of the first volunteer replacements to be sent to the Cheshire's regular army Battalion in early January 1915. Harry's parents, Henry and Elizabeth, lived at 38 Stockholm Road, Stockport and, just before he was killed he wrote to the:-
"Dear Father. As we are on a few days' rest, I am taking this opportunity of writing to you. I am going on all right. We have had a spell in the trenches; it is trying work, especially as the weather is so bad. The German lines are only about 100 yards away at our point and the space between is strewn with dead Frenchmen. We relieved a French Regiment; they must have been trying to take them. We take our rations and cook them over little fires in the trenches. Shell and rifle fire is on all the time; we have lost a few killed and wounded, but not so many as some. The loopholes are dangerous and many are shot through the head while looking through them. Of course, the Germans run the same risk and I am sure I got one fellow having a look at us the other day. You cannot realise the cold; it is almost beyond all bearing. We are out now for a few days rest and we needed it too. We have a lot of sleep to make up. Many a time I could go to sleep standing up. We were at a place where a great amount of fighting has occurred; it is a large town; but to see it in ruins, with houses and churches lying in heaps and the streets almost deserted, shows you what a terrible thing war is. There is a lot of hard fighting to be done yet before it is over. On the way to the trenches there must be thousands buried; the smell in the early morning nearly knocks you over and in the trenches if you kick the ground you will probably find a body. The trenches are what the Germans made and lost and they will soon lose some more, too. We are in barns, sleeping on straw, with one blanket, which is a luxury now. This is the second day of our rest and so far it has been nearly all spent in sleeping. Remember me to Freddy and Tom. I ate one tin of the sardines they sent me in the trenches and I did enjoy it with a bit of bread I had bought the day before. Mostly we are on biscuits, which we soon get tired of, and bread is rather dear here: in fact, everything is - 1½ d for a candle, 3d for a bit of soap and 2d for a few lumps of sugar. That is all now, I will write again soon. Harry ".
Shortly after he wrote this letter, Harry and his mates returned to the front line. On 17 February, the Battalion War Diary only refers to them being "in support" at Lindenhoek. This position, near the village of Wulvergem, is some 10 miles south of the Belgian town of Ieper (then Ypres). The Diary makes no mention of casualties but the fact that the Battalion was not in the immediate front line suggests that Harry was killed by shellfire rather than by a sniper. He has no known grave.