Harold North GODWIN
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Unit: 209th Area Employment Company LABOUR CORPS (Liverpool on mem)
Date of Death: 31 July 1917
Age: 24
Cemetery: Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery, Nord, France

Harold was born in the Aston district of Birmingham, on 21 September 1892 and was living there with his parents and younger sister and brother, when the Census was taken in 1901.Their address was 166 Park Road. 32 year old Samuel worked as an engine fitter. The family moved to the Stockport area whilst Harold was a boy, settling at  9 Brookfield Avenue, Bredbury. Harold was educated at Hyde Secondary School and, later, at Stockport Secondary school. The family worshipped at St Mark's Church, Bredbury and he also furthered his education by attending the Church's Sunday school.

After leaving school, he went to work as a draughtsman at the Bredbury engineering firm of Briddon & Fowler. Later, he was employed by Bailey & Garrett, corn milling engineers, Park Road, Stalybridge.

Three days before Christmas 1915, Harold enlisted into the army, joining the 10th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment as a private. He had previously tried to enlist on 10 previous occasions but had been rejected because of his poor eyesight. His file at the National Archives shows he had generally poor vision in his right eye and poor distance vision in the left. It would seem that Harold was quickly transferred to the King's (Liverpool) Regiment and he was probably allocated to the 25th Works Battalion which he was known to be serving with in the autumn of 1916. Although the men were soldiers in uniform, they were men deemed unfit for front line duty in the trenches and would only undertake manual work in the rear area. They undertook such jobs as road building, grave digging, etc. Harold's service number was 41985. On 17 March 1916, he was made an acting Lance Corporal and this was made permanent with effect from 1 September

Around this time, he applied to become an officer. His service file still exists at the National Archive and this shows he was man of average height for those days - standing 5' 7" with a 35" chest. He undertook his officer training at Cambridge and, on 14 April 1917, was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant assigned back to the Labour Corps.

Not long before he died, Harold had written home saying he had been in hospital but had fully recovered and was returning to duty.

No details remain of Harold's unit and it has not been possible to establish what sort of work the Area Employment Company would have been undertaking at the time. He died at an army field hospital - 15th Casualty Clearing Station. It's chaplain later wrote to his family explaining what had happened: "He was in a train proceeding towards the line which was hit by a shell as it passed through this place and a piece of shell penetrated his left breast and he died as he was being brought into our hospital.......he could have suffered little or no pain as he was unconscious from the time we took him until he died. I buried him this afternoon in the local military Cemetery and we are to put up a cross at the head of his grave to his memory."

Harold's personal effects were later returned to Bredbury. They included his wrist watch and glasses (broken), whistle and lanyard, a pair of scissors; knife soap box together with a pipe and various letters and photos. His outstanding pay was also sent. He owed a mess bill of £1. 0s. 6d which was deducted, but the remaining £13.14.0 was sent on.

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