Lance Corporal 13112 Harold Ernest Lester, MM

Lester Harry sitting and bro Fred Lincolns 96  Lester Harry 96 397x600
Harry sitting, with his brother Alfred standing.      Further picture at bottom of page.

Died of Wounds on Sunday, 13th May 1917, age 25.
Buried in Grave I. G. 3. at Achiet-Le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas De Calais, France.

1st Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 91st Brigade of 7th Division.
Formerly 13112 8th Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment.

Son of Mr Henry and the late Mrs Sarah Lester, of Slater Street, Great Bridge, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Wednesbury, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 14th July 1915.
Medal entitlement: Military Medal, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the St. Luke's, and St. Peter's, Greets Green memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/295344/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Harold Lester registered March quarter 1892 in Dudley.

1901 Census
1 Eagle Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Henry Lester (48, Ironworker, born West Bromwich), his wife Sarah (44, born Kinlet), and their five children: Sarah Emily (16, born Bilston), Alfred (11, born Tipton), Harold E. (9, born Tipton), Getrude (6, born Tipton), and Eliza (3, born Tipton).

1911 Census
49 Slater Street, Great Bridge, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Henry Lester (58, Widower, Ironworker, born West Bromwich), and four of his children: Elizabeth (30, Household Duties, born Sedgley), Harold Ernest (19, Blacksmith's Striker, born Tipton), Getrude (16, born Tipton), and Eliza (13, School, born Tipton).

Personal Data

According to family legend, Harry had a brother, Fred (Alfred?), who was in the Lincolnshire Regiment in WW1 but survived (no trace can be found of Fred/Alfred Lester in the Lincolns). Supposedly, Fred cradled a dying German soldier who asked why Fred did this for him - he replied that "they were not the cause of this". Their sister Elizabeth Lester (who was a nurse) visited Harold when in hospital in Exeter in 1916 recovering from previous wounds. She went on to be midwife for the Great Bridge area delivering hundreds of little Great Bridgers. She also nursed Arthur Barnett's father, Samuel Barnett, after his accident up to his death.

Harold was awarded the Military Medal for an action when he was in the 8th Bn., South Staffs; this was reported in the Supplement to the London Gazette, dated 3rd June 1916. The War Diary of the 8th South Staffs for 3rd June 1916 reports: "In the King's Birthday list of Honours and Awards CAPTAIN E.W. WOOD is awarded the Military Cross, and the following N.C.O.s and men are awarded the Military Medal for services rendered in the field:- 8/13819 L/Cpl EDWARDS A.H. "A" Company, 8/13112 Pte LESTER H.E. "A" Company.

After Harold's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £11/18/0d (11 pounds and 18 shillings); this was paid to his father,Henry, in September 1917. His War Gratuity was £12/10/0d (12 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 approximately September 1914.

Action resulting in his death

It is almost certain that Harold received his wounds at some stage during the Battles of Bullecourt, an attempt to support the Nivelle Offensive and to put pressure on the Hindenburg Line. The first battle on the 10th and 11th April 1917 achieved nothing except for loss of life and distrust from the Australian Army. The second battle was on the 3rd and 4th May 1917 and achieved only limited gains. It was at this stage that the British 7th Division, including the 1st South Staffs, arrived on the Bullecourt battlefield still being strongly defended by the Germans.

On 7 May 1917 the British 7th Division successfully took Bullecourt village. German response was vigorous and the village changed hands several times over the next few days with heavy casualties on both sides, but by 12th May most of Bullecourt was in British hands. The British 7th Division was relieved on 13 May 1917, at this stage only a small corner in the southwest of the village remained in German hands. On the 15th May a German attempt to retake Bullecourt failed, and on the 17th May the village was finally fully in Allied hands.

The 1st South Staffs had 53 men killed between the 10th and 13th May, Harry Lester was most likely wounded during this time and evacuated to Achiet-le-Grand where the 45th and 49th Causualty Clearing Stations were based. He died from his wounds on 13th May and is buried in Achiet-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 20th March 1915
The following is a list of recruits who have passed the doctor since the opening of the Special Recruiting Office in High Street, Dudley, up to 5 o'clock on Thursday.
- Harry Collins
- Ralph Maydon
- A Sid Gough
- Levi Davies
- Sam Martin
- Harry Lester

Birmingham Daily Post 25th August 1916
The following casualties amongst warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and men are reported under various dates:
South Staffordshire Regiment- Lester, 13112, H.E., (Tipton).

Tipton Herald 9th June 1917
LESTER. Lance-Corporal H.E. Lester (13112), 1st South Staffords, died of wounds in France, May 13th 1917.

Tipton Herald 16th June 1917
The following Tipton Soldiers have been officially reported in the casualty lists: Killed - South Staffords: Private F. Smith, Lance Corporal H.E. Lester (Died of Wounds).

Tipton Herald August 11th 1917
Among Tipton soldiers, the casualties as reported during the past fortnight have been heavy. They include - W.T. Baldock (South Staffs), H. Tunley (M.G.C.), V.J. Finch (Buffs, East Kent), Lance Corporal H.E. Lester (South Staffs) and Pte. G.E. Gardner (South Staffs).

Lester Harrry 96
Harry with his sister Elizabeth - see personal data above.