Serjeant G/6494 Harold Pearce, MM

Pearce Harold 96 347x600  Pearce Harold 96 384x600
Photograph courtesy of Harold's nephew, Jim Pearce. Also card at bottom of page.

Died of Wounds on Sunday, 30th September 1917, age 19.
Buried in Grave II. D. 13. at Nine Elms British Cemetery, Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

7th Bn., The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). 55th Brigade of 18th Division.

Son of William and Sarah Ann Pearce, of 34, Victoria Street, Princes End, nr. Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: Military Medal, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the St. John's, and Christ Church, Coseley memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/137278/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
17 Queen Street, Coseley, Staffs.
William Pearce (36, Iron Worker, born Sedgley), his wife Sarah Ann (37, born Sedgley), and their 7 children: John T. (15, Boiler Maker, born Sedgley), William (13, born Sedgley), Phoebe Ann (11, born Sedgley), Sarah Ann (9, born Sedgley), Joseph (5, born Sedgley), Harold (3, born Sedgley), and James (11 months, born Sedgley).

1911 Census
34 Victoria Street, Princes End, Tipton, Staffs.
William Pearce (46, Iron Puddler, born Sedgley), his wife Sarah Ann (47, born Sedgley), and 6 of their 8 surviving children of 9: Sarah (19, House Maid, born Sedgley), Joseph (15, Labourer, born Sedgley), Harold (13, Labourer at Boiler Makers, born Sedgley), James (10, School, born Sedgley), Mary (8, School, born Sedgley), and Florrie (5, School, born Tipton).

Personal Data

Harold was born in Sedgley, but the family moved to Tipton around 1905. According to an article in the Black Country Bugle they were an industrious family. Harold's brother John was a busy man being Treasurer of Summerhill Primitive Methodist Church, running a grocery shop in Victoria Street, and also a Rent Collector for Tipton Council. Another brother, Joseph was the licensee of the English Oak in Upper Church Lane, and yet another brother James was an agent for Provident Clothing and Supply Company. Harold was educated at Christ Church Schools, Coseley, and before enlistment worked for W.G. Allen and Sons at Princes End.

It is not known when during 1916 Harold joined the 7th Buffs (East Kent) in France, but he could have seen extensive service with the 18th (Eastern) Division on the Somme. No Service Records survived for Harold, but we know that he won the Military Medal on the 3rd May 1917 during an attack around Bullecourt, when he led the charge with great bravery after the officers had fallen.

On 3rd May 1917, the second Battle of Bullecourt commenced. This is often associated with the Australian forces as they lost heavily in the frontal attack on the village of Bullecourt. The 7th East Kents were attacking Cherisy, to the north of Bullecourt, with the intention of breaking through and advancing eastwards and encircling Bullecourt from the north.

From Battalion History:
At 3.45am on the 3rd of May the 7th Buffs went over. Owing to the absence of suitable trenches, forming up before the advance was very difficult, and in the darkness the direction of the attack could not be accurately fixed. Consequently, as soon as the attack was launched, contact was lost and the fighting was carried out by isolated bodies of men, who advanced bravely but without cohesion. The 7th Buffs reached their objective (which were Gun and Cartridge Trenches) but in the darkness left large bodies of the enemy untouched behind them and ultimately a retirement to the old position became inevitable. Those of the battalion who made it back had to fight their way through the Germans, now behind them. 120 men from 7th Buffs were killed on this day.

It was for his bravery during this fighting that Harold Pearce won his Military Medal.

After Harold's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £2/0/1d (2 pounds and 1 penny); this was paid to his father, WIlliam, in March 1918. His War Gratuity was £13/10/0d (13 pounds and 10 shillings), this was also paid to his father in December 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Harold had enlisted in May 1915.

Action resulting in his death

After Bullecourt, the 7th Buffs saw action at Pilkem Ridge and Langemarck during the 3rd Battle of Ypres. It was however during a period out of the front line that Harold was killed.

From www.1914-1918.net
"On 23rd September the Buffs moved by train to St Jan Ter Biezen, where five days afterwards, hostile aircraft dropped bombs into the camp doing a very great deal of damage. The men were in huts and tents and the area a very congested one, which fact probably tempted the enemy to his enterprise. It was dark when the aeroplane flew over and it dropped six bombs right into the camp, resulting in the death of 1 officer and 26 others, and the wounding of 3 officers and 63 others."

St Jan Ter Biezen is a small village to the west of Poperinge widely used for camps behind the lines, out of range of artillery fire. It is close to Nine Elms British Cemetery, which was used by the 44th Casualty Clearing Station. Many of the dead from the aeroplane raid are buried in Nine Elms.

Harold is recorded as having Died of Wounds on 30th September and so survived the initial bombing raid. He is likely to have been treated at the 44th Casualty Clearing Station and is buried in Nine Elms British Cemetery.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald July 21st 1917
Sergeant Harold Pearce.
Sergeant Harold Pearce (son of Mr. William Pearce, Victoria Street, Princes End) has been awarded the Military Medal for bravery. It appears that on May 3rd, in an attack around Bullecourt, after the officers had fallen, Corporal Pearce, as he was, led the charge with bravery. Prior to joining the colours, he was employed at the work of W.G. Allen and Sons (Tipton) Ltd. He was educated at Christ Church Schools, Coseley.

Tipton Herald October 13th 1917
Sergeant H. Pearce.
The official intelligence has just been received of the death behind the firing line, as the result of a bomb dropped by an enemy airman, of Sergeant Harold Pearce of the 7th Battalion, East Kent Regiment.
The gallant sergeant was awarded the Military Medal for bravery on May 3rd. It was during an attack around Bullecourt, after the officers had fallen, when he lead the charge with great bravery. He was not then 20 years of age. Prior to joining the colours, he was employed at W.G. Allen and Sons (Tipton) Ltd. and was educated at Christ Church Schools, Coseley. He is a son of Mr. Wm. Pearce, of Victoria Street, Princes End, where his brother also resides.

Tipton Herald November 10th 1917
Sergeant H. Pearce
Sergeant H. Pearce, of the 7th East Kent Regiment, has been killed by a bomb on the battlefield. Just after the war broke out, Sergeant Pearce joined up, and on May 3rd of the present year gained the Military Medal for bravery. The news of his death came as a great shock to his parents, who were looking forward to seeing him on leave. In a letter to his home, the deceased's Captain said: "Sergeant Pearce was as brave as a lion, loved by his men, and admired by all his officers." The Captain goes on to say that "Sergeant Pearce's death will be felt very much indeed amongst the men, for he always had a smile and words of good cheer for everyone." Another brother joined up at the outbreak of the war, but after serving two years and six months with the B.E.F. he was fetched back again to do work of great importance. Sergeant Harold Pearce was only 19 years of age, and much sympathy is felt for his parents who reside at 34 Victoria Street, Princes End, Tipton. Before entering the war, deceased worked at Messrs W.G. Allen and Sons (Tipton) Ltd, and was educated at Christ Church School, Coseley.

Pearce Harold MemCard 96 coverPearce Harold MemCard 96 detail Above image of Memorial Card courtesy of Harold's nephew, Jim Pearce.