Unit: 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion
Service Number: 29461
Date of Death: 7 February 1917 – Killed in action
Age: 30 years (+ 1 day)
Cemetery / Memorial: Thiepval Memorial
Grave / Panel Ref.: Pier and Face 2 C
Harold was born in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, on the 6 February 1887, the son of Charles William, Relieving Officer, and Harriett (née Evison) Jackson. He had a younger sister, Alice, [born 28 August 1888] and a younger brother, Tom (see below) [born 18 November 1889].
Harold’s mother, Harriett, died on 25 November 1889, possibly from complications following Tom’s birth a week earlier and she was buried in Sleaford Cemetery. In 1891 (Census RG 12/2578) the family were living at 3 Market Street, New Sleaford, Lincolnshire.
In 1901 (Census RG 13/3048) the family was living at Eastbridge House, Ruskington (2014 picture right). At that time Harold was employed as a “Building Contractors’ Clerk”.
In 1911 (Census RG 14/19618) Harold’s father, step-mother and half-brother and sisters were at the same address, but later moved to Ivy House, Ruskington.
Harold, however, had moved to London and was “Acting Master” of Islington Workhouse (Census RG 14/820). (left)
His father and step-mother, however, remained in Ruskington until their deaths and they are buried side-by-side in Graves 24 and 26, Old East Border, Ruskington Cemetery (right). Charles William died in August 1934, aged 74, and Fanny Ernestine in July 1936, aged 76.
In the June quarter 1911 Harold married Annie Gertrude McSweeney who, at the time, was employed as “Assistant Matron, Rye [Sussex] Workhouse“. At the time of his enlistment he/they were living in Ilford, Essex.
Harold and Annie had two children, Kathleen May (born 12 September 1912 in Torrington, Devon) and Denis Charles (born 16 February 1916 in Headington, Oxfordshire).
When publishing Harold’s Obituary on 24 February 1917, ‘The Sleaford Gazette‘ gave a full account of his career:
“His career started out with a few years in the offices of Messrs. W. Pattinson & Sons. Then he went to Oxford City Workhouse as master’s clerk under Mr. J. Hill, who had formerly been Master of Sleaford Workhouse. From Oxford the young man went to Chelsea to a similar position. He was not long before he took another step upwards in Poor Law. At Islington he was soon promoted to Assistant Master from the position of senior clerk. This institute, with its 2,000 inmates, found Mr. Jackson full scope for his abilities. He had not been there long before the Master died. For five months he efficiently carried out the duties of Master, and was given a splendid testimonial and a gratuity of £50 by the Guardians. Mr. Jackson, then married, and when the last vacancy of the Mastership of Sleaford Workhouse occurred, he and his wife were applicants. However, by one vote only they were defeated. An appointment of Master and Matron at Torrington, North Devon, was the next move of the couple. Finally, the same posts at Headington, near Oxford, came, and until last May the couple lived in the Poor Law sense with the esteem and respect of all who knew them. A brilliant career, a host of friends, a good wife, two bonnie bairns -and the country called for men. The call was answered by Mr. Jackson. He went out and did his duty, and died the noblest of deaths.
He was an old scholar at the Sleaford Alvey Schools, and it will be one more name to add to their Roll of Honour. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the members of the family, who have been respected residents of this parish for 20 years.”
In July 1917 Harold’s effects were returned from France, amounting to £3 1s. 1d. [£3.06 a relative value of about £270 today (2023)] and a War Gratuity of £3 (about £200 today) at the end of the War. Strangely, both of these payments were made to: “Wife Sole legatee Mary Anne“. With effect from 20 August 1917 she received a Pension of £1 2s 11d per week [£1.15 – about £102 p.w. today].
Records give their address at the time of his death as Headington, Oxfordshire. He left his estate of £120 10s. 0d. (£120.50 a relative value of about £10,700 today ) According to CWGC records, Annie moved to live at 3 Vale View, Church Hill, Honiton, Devon, after the War.
According to the SDGW database, Harold enlisted in the Bedfordshire Regiment in Bedford, but unfortunately, his Service Papers have been destroyed during a Second World War bombing raid.
His Medal Index Card also gives no indication when Harold entered the War. However, his Obituary (see above) reported: “He joined the Army in May last (i.e. May 1916). He went to the Bedfordshire Regiment, and was not long in training before he was sent out to France.“
The 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion was in Bedford at the outbreak of the War and was a training unit, it moved within a few days of declaration of war to Felixstowe, for duty with the Harwich Garrison, providing home defence around Harwich as well as drafts for the front line battalions.
On 25 July 1916, having been converted for war service the Battalion landed at Le Havre and came under orders of 190th Brigade in 63rd (Royal Naval) Division. It would seem likely that Harold would have gone to France with that original posting.
After its arrival in France the 4th Battalion was first engaged in The Battle of the Ancre, 13th – 18th November 1916, in which 86 Officers and Other Ranks were killed in action.
In 1917 they were involved in the continuing Operations on the Ancre, specifically at the actions at Miraumont in February. British operations on the Ancre from 10 January – 22 February 1917, forced the Germans back 5 miles (8.0 km) on a 4 miles (6.4 km) front, and eventually took 5,284 prisoners.
The Battalion War Diary for the period just before Harold was killed reads:
“4 Feb 1917 – Forceville 9 p.m. Bn. proceed by route march to FORCEVILLE. 189 Inf.Bde. relieved 190th Inf.Bde. on North bank of ANCRE. HAWKE Bn. R.N.D. relieve 4 Bedf.R. 2 companies in old German 3rd line Q.18.a. 2 Companies in RAVINE Q.12.d.
5 Feb 1917 – Englebelmer 3 p.m. Bn. proceed by route march to ENGLEBELMER moving into billets vacated by 7/Royal Fusiliers.
6 Feb 1917 – trenches near Beaumont-Hamel 11 a.m. Bn. sent up as reserve troops to 189 Inf.Bde. and occupied old German 1st & 2nd lines with 7 Royal Fusiliers in 3rd line. Q.18.a. 10 p.m. 2 Companies advanced to trench E of BOIS A HOLLANDIE holding line from R.8.a.8.7. to R.2.c.0.10. 1 Company on shell slits PUISIEUX ROAD. 1 Company SUVLA TRENCH R.7.a&b. all in support to 189 Inf.Bde. in action.
7 Feb 1917 6 p.m. 4th Bedf.R. take over left front Subsector and relieve NELSON Bn. R.N.D. [Royal Naval Division] Frontage R.1.a.7.3. to R.2.a.9.7. Bn. on our right 10 R.Dublin Fusrs. with 1st H.A.C. on extreme right. Bn. on our left 15 H.L.I. 7 Royal Fusiliers in Support. “
According to the Diary, during the whole of the Action at Miraumont (6 – 16 February), the 4th Battalion had” “Casualties Killed 68. Wounded 90. Missing 3. Missing believed Killed 45. ” CWGC Records for the same period show 65 Officers and men killed in action, though many more could have died of wounds or in captivity.
Harold was one of 14 who died on the 7th February, just 2 days into the action. He has no known grave and is commemorated with 29 of his comrades from that period on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.
On the 24 February 1917 ‘The Lincolnshire Chronicle’ reported Harold’s death in action, and the following week, 3 March 1917, published his Obituary as follows:
” ROLL OF HONOUR – In our last issue we reported the death in France, on Feb. 7th, of Lance Corporal Harold Jackson. Since then the widow has received the following letter from the chaplain of the regiment to which the deceased belonged – ‘Dear Mrs. Jackson – I deeply sympathise with you in the great loss which you have sustained through the death of your husband. I knew him very well. He was a very capable man, and was getting on very quickly in this Battalion, where his high talents came to be recognized in a very short time. He spoke a great deal about you to me, and made me understand how much you were to him. And now comes your great loss. God has borrowed him, or rather taken him back from you-but it is not an absolute separation. Our loved ones do still know, and can no doubt help us.
I pray that Christ will give you of His strength to comfort and carry you through this sorrow. When the prospect looks black and hopeless (and when a joint life such as yours and his is suddenly severed it often does look black), try to think of all this. Remember also how bravely he did his duty (and I assure you that it requires great bravery to go through what he did in the days preceded his death), and, therefore, how he would like you to be brave and to bravely carry on. With much sympathy – Yours sincerely. T. Harold Davies, D.D., Chaplain (C of E), 4th Beds.’ “
- ‘The Lincolnshire Chronicle’ – 24 February 1917 (page 7) & 3 March 1917 (page 3)
- ‘The Sleaford Gazette’ – 24 February 1917 & 3 March 1917