Harry Turner Clayton
Rank: Private
Number: 40691
Unit: B Company, 9th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment
Date of Death: 5 June 1917
Age: 24
Cemetery: White House Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium

Henry Cooper and Kate Turner married at St Thomas' Church, Heaton Norris in the late summer of 1890. He was nearly 20 years older than Kate and died in 1910, aged 65. Their son, Harry, was born in 1893 and, six years later, Rowland was born. In 1901 the family was living at 21 Elms Road, Heaton Moor and, later, at 6 Grosvenor Road.

Before he enlisted into the army, Harry worked at the Withington branch of the Manchester & County Bank (eventually part of National Westminster). He was originally posted to the Royal Field Artillery (service number 160602). This must have been only for his initial training as his only overseas service was with the York and Lancasters.

Although it cannot now be proven, an examination of casualty records suggests that official records of his date of death are wrong and that he was killed during the opening day of the Battle of Messines on 7 June.

At the end of May, Harry and his comrades had been in the front line but were relieved on the morning of 1 June and withdrew to camp to prepare for the forthcoming offensive. They remained here for a few days before making their way forward again. On the day that Harry is recorded as having been killed, they had left camp in the evening, stopping overnight in a reserve trench called Wellington Crescent. After the War, regiments published a list of casualties which is now available on a CD-Rom called "Soldiers Died in the Great War". This lists 12 men as having been killed, yet the Battalion's War Diary, written at the time, makes no mention of any casualties.

The attack took place in the early hours of the 7 June and was very successful with the Battalion securing its objectives. However, the CD-Rom only lists 7 men having been killed. It seems unlikely that such a small number would be killed during an attack, yet almost twice this number killed on an unremarkable day spent mainly in camp. Whilst not impossible that Harry was killed on the 5th, a more likely probability is that simple clerical error crept in to the regimental recording at the time which, 90 years later, cannot be corrected.

Harry was originally posted as being missing and, even by October 1917, his body had not been recovered. It must have been discovered much later.

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