Sapper 1147 Harry Tittley

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Original grave picture at bottom of page.

Died on Sunday, 23rd May 1915, age 22.
Buried in Grave I. F. 43. at Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension (Nord), Nord, France.

Royal Engineers, 1st South Midland Field Company.

Son of John Henry and Mary Jane Tittley, of 21, Market Place, Great Bridge, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Bristol, Enlisted: Bristol, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 12th December 1914.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the St. Peter's, Greets Green Memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/201915/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
21 Market Place, Great Bridge, Tipton, Staffs.
John H. Tittley (37, Wine & Spirits Agent and Tobacconist, born Tipton), his wife Mary J. (36, born West Bromwich), and their 4 children: Edith (10, born Tipton), Harry (8, born Tipton), Frank (5, born Tipton), and Gwendoline (3, born Tipton).

1911 Census
21 Market Place, Great Bridge, Tipton, Staffs.
John Henry Tittley (47, Tobacconist and Wine & Spirits Merchant, born Tipton), his wife Mary Jane (46, born West Bromwich), and 3 of their 4 children: Edith (20, born Tipton), Harry (18, Apprentice and Student, born Tipton), and Gwendoline (13, Student, born Tipton).

Personal Data

Harry enlisted in the 1st/1st Field Company (South Midlands) Royal Engineers on 7th September 1914 at Bristol. Harry was 21 years 8 months old, was 5 feet 8½ inches tall with a 35-inch chest, and weighed 137 pounds. He had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. He was employed as a Fitter Machinist and belonged to the Church of England.

Harry landed in France on 12th December 1914, and his one incident of note before his death was on 4th March 1915 when he was 'Absent from billet until apprehended by the Military Police', an offence for which received 3 days Field Punishment No. 2.

Action resulting in his death

In May 1915, Harry's 1st/1st South Midland Field Company was attached to the 48th (South Midlands) Division located near Ploegsteert Wood. Around the middle of May their War Diary records that they were making 'boxes of powder' possibly for use in exploding mines as they were close to Messines Ridge.

At 8.00am on the 23rd May, a barrel of gunpowder exploded during the filling of boxes. Four men, Sappers Holley, Stokes, Windsor and Lance Corporal Howell, were killed instantly, Sapper Harry Tittley died later on the same day and Sapper Jones died 6 days later. Four further men were seriously wounded and 5 slightly wounded.

Harry received serious blast wounds and burns and died on the same day at Casualty Clearing Station No. 8 at Bailleul, and was buried at Bailleul Communal Cemetery.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 5th June 1916
Yet another young Tipton hero has given his life for his country - in defence of his parents, his home, and the women and children of his native land. Mr JH Tittley, of Market Place, Great Bridge, has just received the sad tidings of the death of his eldest son, Sapper Harry Tittley, of the Royal Engineers, as the result of an explosion of gunpowder on Sunday May 23rd.
The young man was only 22 years old last Christmas. He was at Bristol at the outbreak of war, and joined, early in September, the South Midlands Territorial Division as an engineer. He left England on December 21st.
The deceased soldier is described by those who knew him best as a bright, attractive, modest young fellow. He was educated at the West Bromwich Municipal Technical School, and served his apprenticeship at the engineering works of Messrs Geo. E. Whitehouse and Co, Great Bridge. About Christmas 1912, he entered the employ of the Bristol Tramway Carriage Co., and had been there about twenty months when war broke out. When he joined the forces he commenced his military training at Bristol, and completed it in Essex, where he helped in making the defences for that county. He was selected with a number of others and attached to the 27th Division, who had returned from India and stationed at Winchester, and which was considered as honour. On the Continent he was transferred from the 27th Division to the 101st Field Company, and served with them until he met his death on Sunday May 23rd.

The parents of the young soldier received the first news of the death of their son in the following letter from the Commanding Officer of the 101st South Midlands Field Company, Royal Engineers, written on May 28th.
"My dear Sir, I deeply regret to have to inform you of the death of your son, 1147 Sapper Harry Tittley, as the result of an explosion of gunpowder on the 23rd. He was severely wounded and was removed immediately to the hospital, and I have now received the news of his death on the same day. My connection with the Company is only of a few weeks standing, and I did not know your son well, but I know that he did his duty as a soldier, and his behaviour at the hospital was specially reported to me as that of a brave man. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy. Your son has given his life for his country."
Yours very truly, H. Clissold, Major, Commanding the 101st South Midland Field Company, R.E.

The deceased young soldier, who has thus been cut off in the flower of his youth, had a bright future before him. He was esteemed by all who knew him, both at his work and by his friends in Tipton and Bristol, he leaving a sweetheart at the latter place.

The following are a sample of some of the many letters received by the bereaved family:
" To Mr & Mrs J.H. Tittley and family, We the undersigned shopmates of the late Sapper Harry Tittley, desire to put on record the very great respect and esteem in which he was held by us, and we ask you to accept our heartfelt sympathy in your loss. We ask you to try and realise the honour attached to so noble a sacrifice. He died that we may live, and has won through to a greater light and become a star whose brightness we must not dim by unfading grief. In deepest condolence."
Yours sincerely, Geo. H. Whitehouse,
Signed: Albert Cook (foreman), Robert Benns, Henry Saxon, Thomas Miller, Joseph Land, Stephen Jackson, George Cole, Abraham Richards, Sapper C.H. Onions, and Corporal W. Belcher (the latter two on active service.)

Mr A.J. Menzies, headmaster of the West Bromwich Secondary School, wrote:"Dear Mrs Tittley, I hear this morning of your terrible loss. Be assured that you have the sympathy of all of us who knew Harry. Words can do very little to soften such a grief as yours, but from the bottom of my heart there is only one consolation I can offer you. Your boy has died young with honour unstained, and has died doing his duty, and that is a better death than falls to most of us. You will always think of him as something apart from and better than your other children, and I feel sure that your grief will give way to a feeling of just pride."

Mr and Mrs Tittley have received many other letters in their loss. If the deceased soldier had postponed enlisting for a short time he would have been alive, as employees in his section of the works were afterwards refused in consequence of the firm being engaged in manufacturing war specialities.

A nurse at the Field Hospital where deceased passed away has written to the young soldier's mother telling her that her son's last words were of her. The parents treasure the last letter from their son despatched only on the Tuesday, and received by them on Saturday 22nd May, the day before his death occurred. The letter is one of the most nicely written that we have perused. He mentions among other things, the presence of half a dozen nightingales in the woods near the trenches.

The deceased was a skilled workman, and of very high character. His acquaintances have remarked that young Tittley had always seemed to influence older lads for their good.

Tipton Herald 19th June 1916
In reply to a vote of condolence from the Special Constables accorded Mr J.H. Tittley, of Great Bridge, on the death of his son at the front, that gentleman has written to the secretary of that body (Mr T. Lawrence) a grateful letter of appreciation for the member's sympathy.

Tipton Herald 27th May 1916
TITTLEY.- In loving memory of Harry, of the Royal Engineers, who died in France from wounds received while on active service, May 23rd 1915, aged 22yrs. Sadly missed by father, mother, brother, sisters and Dora. "Peace, perfect peace."

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Photograph courtesy of Andrew Stevens.