Harry lived with his parents, Charles and Edith, at 10 Lime Grove, Cheadle. He had a sister named Margery. He had attended Cheadle Wesleyan School and worked for his uncle, F Gibbon, plumber, High Street, Cheadle. Active in the local community, Harry was a member of the Church Sunday School, the church choir and Boys Brigade.
He enlisted on 6 August 1914 at Stockport - reportedly the first from Cheadle to do so. His service papers, at the National Archives, have survived a fire in the 1940s and these have provided much information about him. For example, his enlistment form shows him to have been 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighing 120 pounds. He had a fresh complexion, with grey eyes and brown hair. Although he had attended the Wesleyan School, Harry described his religion as Church of England.
By November, he was in Belgium serving as an ambulance driver. In a letter to his father, he mentioned that he hadn't met anyone he knew, but had been sorry to hear about Bert Read and "young Bailey". "Bailey" is probably James Bailey, who had been killed on 28 August 1914 and is commemorated on this memorial.
In April 1915, he was close to the action at the Hill 60 battle near Ypres and suffered a nervous breakdown in the aftermath. He recovered and was back in action as a motorcyclist with an Anti-Aircraft Machine Gun Section. In another letter he describes a "scrap" between a British and German airplane. "We started shelling him but without success, as he managed to dodge past us and get over the rear of our lines. On seeing this, one of our planes went up after him and got fairly close before he was recognized; then ensued a running fight. The German thinking discretion the better part of valour made off for his own lines at top speed, but soon found he was being overhauled and it was only by continually twisting and turning that he was able to reach his own lines in safety."
On 21 June, Harry was absent from roll call at 9pm. This was a serious offence and Harry was sentenced by his commanding officer to 5 days Field Punishment No.1. This meant that he would have been shackled to a fixed point, such as a gun wheel, for two hours each day.
In the summer of 1915, he crashed and was injured, although not seriously. In October, he crashed again, breaking both hips. He was recovering from this accident in Boulogne and wrote to his mother "Yesterday, I saw England. It was from the window and there was about 30 miles of water between., but the cliffs of Dover showed up plainly. I hope to make a closer inspection of them shortly." Later that day, Harry got his wish. He was loaded onto the hospital ship Anglia. The ship struck a mine just off Dover and sank. The ship took some time to sink and over 170 were rescued by other vessels. But it was not possible to save those with serious injuries, like Harry, who were confined to cots below decks. Harry's body was never recovered and identified.
Harry was a prolific letter writer and many were published in the local paper (copies now held by the Local Heritage Library at Stockport).
(NB: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)