Harry Adams was born in 1881 in New Whittington, his parents Charles and Mary lived at Glasshouses, Glasshouse cottages were on the East side of Glasshouse Lane north of Glasshouse Farm.
Map courtesy of Pauline Brough
Harry married Eliza Taylor in 1898 and on 10th March 1900 their son Ernest was born.
In 1901 Harry was still living at Glasshouses and was working as a coal miner/loader. The loader was the man who loaded the coal into carts at the coal face.
By 1911 Charles Adams (Harrys father) had died and Harry was still living in the family home with his son Ernest and his widowed mother. Also at Glasshouses was Ernest’s sister Beatrice and her husband and children.
Harry joined up as soon as war was declared and he enlisted in the 2/4th Leicester’s Battalion, Regimental number 14417. At the time of joining, 4th September 1914, he was 33 years and 172 days old. Luckily part of Harry’s service record has survived. His height was given as 5ft 9ins and his occupation was miner.
Harry had quite an uncomfortable start to his military service. In October 1914 he was injured during a physical exercise activity. He was taking part in a ‘leapfrog ‘activity and was accidentally thrown to the ground. He damaged his knee and had to be helped off the parade ground. He was sent back to Chesterfield in November 1914 for an operation and returned to his unit in January 1915.
It wasn’t long before he was sent overseas and he arrived in France on 29th July 1915.
During 1916 Harry contracted several illnesses whilst serving in France. In May it was recorded that he was suffering from a severe case of flu, which then turned into Myalgia (muscle pain) and Harry was sent to 19th Casualty Clearing Station at Beauval. On the 6th June 1916 the casualty record shows that Harry had P.O.U.O this was the abbreviation for Pyrexia or a very high fever. At this point Harry was considered ill enough to be sent to the hospital at Rouen.
On the 16th June 1916 Harry was transferred back to the UK and in March 1917 he was based at Brocton Camp, Staffs. Harry did not return to France until 23rd March 1917.
When he did return the Battalion were thrown straight into front line fighting. The 2/4th as part of 59th Division, were involved in ‘The pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line’ 14th March – 5th April 1917.
During Somme fighting the Germans constructed a formidable new defensive system some miles in their rear. From February 1917 they began to withdraw into it, giving up ground but in carrying out “Operation Alberich” they made the ground as uninhabitable and difficult as possible. British patrols eventually detected the withdrawal and cautiously followed up and advanced, being brought to a standstill at the outer defences of the system.
Trees felled by retreating German armies across the road at Peronne.
Imperial War Museum image Q5104
The area where Harry was fighting in April 1917.
In May 1917 59th Division were relieved and moved from the front line for rest, however within a matter of days they were moved back to the front line at Cambrai.
In June Harry’s Battalion were moved back for rest at Barastre, a lengthy stay in readiness for the Flanders offensive. In late August they were moved by train frm Acheux to Winnezeele.
This is a brief account of what Harry was involved in during his final days, taken from the WW1 Diaries of 2/4th Battalion Leicesters.
On 24th September the Battalion moved from Poperinghe to Ypres north sector in support of the Staffords, they moved up into the front line trenches in readiness for what was to become known as the Battle of Polygon Wood, one of the major battles of the Third Battle of Ypres (later referred to as Passchendaele).
On 26th the Battalion went over the top at 5.50am, the attack was successful with few casualties and the Division obtained their objective.
At 6.30pm the same evening some of the front line troops misunderstood their orders and started to withdraw from the front line, the 2/4th Leicester’s did not and held their positions. At 7.45 pm they went on the attack again. They had managed to capture 5 Machine Guns, 2 Bomb Throwers and had taken 80 prisoners.
During the night there was a lot of artillery fire. The 27th started very quiet and the Division managed to extend their front line.
On the 28th there was a heavy barrage from the Germans, however they didn’t manage to gain any ground.
29th, again very quiet until 6pm when the Germans started again with a heavy bombardment which lasted until 7.30pm. At 4.30am on the 30th the Germans again started heavy shelling on the front line troops and the back lines. The Division replied and the bombardment ceased at 6.30am. The rest of the day was quiet and the Battalion was relieved at 7pm.
The result was 147 other ranks wounded or missing and 28 other ranks killed.
According to army records Harry Adams was killed on 30th September 1917, according to his obituary in the Derbyshire Times he died on 2nd October 1917 from his wounds, either way I would imagine he was injured/killed at the Battle of Polygon Wood.
Harry Adams was buried in Mendingham Military Cemetery more information on the cemetery can be read here https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/50500/mendinghem-military-cemetery/ there was a Casualty Clearing Station at Mendingham so perhaps the obituary is correct!
Derbyshire Times/Chesterfield Herald 13th October 1917
At some point Harry’s mother left New Whittington and moved to Old Whittington and at the time of her son’s death she was living at 9 Church Street, and in 1918 Harry’s son Ernest was also living there. However, by 1919 Ernest had moved to Hull and this may have resulted in a mix up with Harry’s medals.
Harry was awarded the British war, Victory and 14/15 Star medals but according to his medal card either all or just the 14/15 star were returned. Medals could be returned for many reasons, sometimes the inscription was incorrect, the reason for Harry’s medals being returned was KR (Kings Regulations) 1743, this meant the medals had been unclaimed after 10 years and would have been sent to be broken up at the Royal Dockyard Woolwich. It always seems very sad when someone has given their life, but there could be many reasons why the medals were unclaimed.
Harrys mother, brothers and sisters remembered Harry in the local paper:
Harry is remembered on New Whittington, Old Whittington and the Brushes War memorials.