HAROLD BINNS HOLT

Private 6019, 4th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment)

Died of Wounds 1st October 1917 aged 38

Buried in La Clytte Military Cemetery, De Klijte, Belgium

Son Robert and Mary Holt

Lived 26, Ings Road, Heckmondwike


Harold Holt’s mother, Mary (née Firth), died in 1888 aged 36.  She had married Robert in 1874 and by the time of her death there were five children: Lavinia aged 12; Wilfred 11; Harold 9; Gertrude 3 and Ernest 2.  By 1911 many changes had taken place: Robert died in 1896 aged 50; Ernest died in 1904 aged 18; Lavinia married Fred Barraclough in 1909 and had a son Ernest; Harold lived with Lavinia and family at 1, Nelson Street, Heckmondwike and Wilfred married Sarah in 1910 and lived in Dewsbury.  Gertrude lived with an aunt, Emma Wrigley, in Mirfield.

Harold joined the West Riding Regiment on 12 June 1916 at the age of 37.  His address was 26 Ings Road, Heckmondwike; he was a Spinner; 5ft 6ins tall and weighed 158lbs.  A medical examination in Halifax noted some damage to his left foot as a result of an accident, but this was not serious enough to prevent him training in England, initially with ‘F’ Company 5th Reserve West Riding Regiment and then the 4th Reserve Battalion from 1 September 1916.  The medical categories and definitions used then are both complex and varying, but it is clear that on 12 July 1917 Harold’s fitness was downgraded to C2.  This reduction in fitness assessment was due to last 6 months.  As a result Harold was posted to 360th (Reserve) Employment Company of the Labour Corps in July 1917 based in Strensall near York, then to 738th Area Employment Company based in France, where he arrived on 30 July 1917.  It is a sad irony that a move away from an infantry battalion and a reduction in fitness should lead to Harold’s death on 1 October 1917.  Area Employment Companies typically were used on battlefield salvage work and were not usually armed, though their work did bring them within range of German artillery.  Units did not keep war diaries but it is clear from the records that 738 Company were working in the area of the Ypres Salient as part of the Third Battle of Ypres.  In a kindly letter sent to Harold’s sister Lavinia living at 45, Ings Road, Heckmondwike Sergeant Rennoldson said that Harold had been a good soldier and "All who knew him say he was a good fellow, of quiet disposition and very attentive to his duties".  Harold was wounded in the back and face but "was quite cheerful all the way to the hospital, and died quite suddenly on arrival there".  The Sergeant said that Harold was buried on 2 October near to the place where he was wounded.  This proved to be a temporary burial and in October 1919 Harold’s remains, at first recorded as an unknown British soldier, were identified by his clothing and moved to La Clytte Military Cemetery West of Ypres.

Harold was owed £5 14s 8d at the time of his death, but £2 0s 4d was deducted by the Records Office and the balance of £3 14s 4d was sent to Lavinia on 4 June 1918.  The War Grant of £5 was sent to her in 1919.  The British War and Victory Medals were issued by the Labour Corps to Lavinia.  Wilfred completed the form, certified by a Clerk in Holy Orders at the House of the Resurrection Mirfield, to claim the Scroll and Memorial Plaque (the so called ‘Death Penny’).  Though Harold was killed serving with an Area Employment Company, with a service number of 281290, it was the War Graves Commission policy to commemorate Labour Corps soldiers under the Regiment to which they first belonged.
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