Private 26655 Harold Shearwood

Shearwood Harold 96 454x600Shearwood Harold 96 378x600
Photograph courtesy of Harold's niece Jan Clemence.

Killed in Action on Wednesday, 7th March 1917, age 19.
Buried in Grave XI. A. 10. at Assevillers New British Cemetery, Somme, France.

1st Bn., The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. 2nd Brigade of 1st Division.
Formerly 4928 Durham Light Infantry.

Son of Mr Benjamin Shearwood of 5 Hall Buildings, Horseley Road, Tipton.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Kidderminster, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

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

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/335877/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
9 Old Hall Buildings, Tipton, Staffs.
Benjamin Shearwood (26, Riveter of Iron Bridges, born Tipton), his wife Mary (24, born Tipton), and their 3 children: Harold (4, born Tipton), Clarice (2, born Tipton), and John (1 month, born Tipton).

1911 Census
5 Hall Buildings, Horseley Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Benjamin Shearwood (36, Riveter at a Bridge and Girder Works, born Tipton), his wife Mary (34, born Tipton), and their seven children: Harold (14, School, born Tipton), Clarice (12, School, born Tipton), John (10, School, born Tipton), Frank (7, born Tipton), Ernest (5, born Tipton), William (2, born Tipton), and Arthur (1 month, born Tipton).

Personal Data

Harold attested on 26th November 1915 at Kidderminster, and was put into the Army Reserve awaiting his eventual call-up. It is probable that Harold enlisted under the Derby Scheme (named after the Director-General of Recruitment, Lord Derby). Men aged 18 to 40 were told that they could continue to enlist voluntarily, or attest with an obligation to come if called up. The War Office notified the public that voluntary enlistment would soon cease and that the last day of registration would be 15th December 1915. Harold enlisted almost 3 weeks before the last day for registration. Single men who were not in protected job were all called up by March 1916.

At attestation, Harold was aged 19 and employed as a Plater and living at 5 Hall Buildings, Horseley Road, Tipton. He expressed a preference to join the 7th Worcesters, even travelling to Kidderminster to attest. He was not required to join up until 28th March 1916, when his preference for the Worcesters was ignored. By this stage he was 20 years old, 5ft 5 in tall with a 35½in chest measurement, weighing 129 lbs. On August 1st 1916 at the end of his 5 months training in England, Harold was posted to the 1/8th Durham Light Infantry. He landed in France on 2nd August 1916, and on 5th September 1916 he was posted to the 1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancs Regiment.

After Harold's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £2/16/5d (2 pounds, 16 shillings and 5 pence); this was paid to his mother and sole legatee, Mary, in June 1917. His War Gratuity was £3/0/0d (3 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his mother, in November 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Harry had enlisted within the 12 months prior to his death.

Action resulting in his death

Just six months after landing in France, Harold was killed in action with the 1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancs, whilst serving in the Somme sector in the area to the south west of Peronne. In 1920 his body was exhumed from the original burial place as this was in a place "unsuitable for permanent retention". Harold's remains were re-buried in Assevillers New British Cemetery, 5 miles west of Peronne.

From the War Diary, 1st Battalion, The Loyal North Lancs, 7th March 1917
The Battalion carried out a raid on enemy trenches in front of Barleux Quarry at 4.15am. The raiding party consisted of 5 Officers & 140 Other Ranks. The Battalion was relieved in the front line by the 2nd Royal Sussex Regiment and moved back into support with Battalion HQ in Meudon Avenue.

Editor's Note: Barleux is 3 miles south west of Peronne, just south of the River Somme. Barleux Quarry was at the point of a salient in the German front line at the junction of Barleux and Gorlitz trenches. The quarry can still be seen today.

Report to Brigade regarding the action of March 7th.
The objectives of the raid on the enemy lines round Barleux Quarry were to capture prisoners, machine guns and trench mortars; to destroy dugouts and any mine shafts; and to damage the enemy trenches as much as possible.

Captain E.F. Nichol was in command of 5 officers, 15 N.C.O.s, and 122 men, divided into 4 columns.
The four columns left the British front line at Zero Hour 4.15 am. The enemy put up a trench mortar barrage assisted by rifle grenades and machine guns within one minute after Zero.
Right Column.
The guide for this was wounded almost immediately on leaving the trench but the party pushed on and 1 Officer, 1 N.C.O. and 2 men managed to reach the enemy wire. The enemy line was strongly held and men were lying out behind the wire in addition to the men actually in the trench. A machine gun was firing from just behind the wire. Twenty eight bombs were thrown at this gun which was put out of action. A vigorous bombing fight continued until the withdrawal signal was given. This Column withdrew at Zero plus 20 minutes.
Right Centre Column.
This party went rapidly forward alone up to our barrage and stopped. As soon as the barrage lifted they pushed on to the gap in the wire when they were immediately heavily bombed by the enemy who was holding his trench very strongly. They replied vigorously and a bombing fight continued until the withdrawal signal was given. Captain Nichol was hit on the helmet and knocked over as he was getting out of the trench, on recovering he pushed forward until severely wounded in the arm.
Left Centre Column.
This column advanced towards the enemy wire but suffered heavy casualties. The officer and 6 men reached the gap in the enemy wire and tried to push on. A brisk bombing fight ensued which continued until the signal for withdrawal.
Left Column.
The Left Column reached the enemy wire, found the gap, and attempted to advance. They also found the enemy trench very strongly held and a bombing fight began. The party suffered heavy casualties and the remnants reached our line about 5.25 am. The officer in charge was badly wounded but was brought into our line by another officer at 6.30 am.

Officers. Wounded: Captain E.F.NICHOL and 2/Lieut. N.H.WARD.
Other Ranks. Killed: 10, Missing: 6, Wounded: 45.

Newspaper Cuttings

Letter to Harold Shearwood's parents from No. 2 Infantry Record Office, Preston, dated August 13th 1920.
I beg to inform you that in accordance with the French and Belgian government's wishes to remove those graves which were situated in places unsuitable for permanent retention, it has been found necessary to exhume the body of your late son:- No. 26635 Pte. Shearwood Harold, 1st Batt. Loyal North Lancs Regiment, who has been re-buried in Assevillers Military Cemetery, 5 miles West South West of Peronne.
The necessity for the removal is much regretted, but was unavoidable for the reason given above, and I can give you every assurance that the work of re-burial has been carried out carefully and reverently, special arrangements having been made for the appropriate religious service to be held.