HARRY HEADLEY

Private 76290, 20th Battalion Manchester Regiment

Killed in Action 23rd October 1918 aged 20

Buried Pommereuil British Cemetery, Nord, France

Son of Isabel West

Lived 9, Brooke Street, Heckmondwike


It must have been a great blow to William and Jane Headley of Heckmondwike to learn that two of their grandsons had been killed on the same day, 23rd October 1918.   These notes focus on one of their grandsons, Harry Headley.  The details of the other grandson, his cousin John William Spink also appear on this website.

Harry’s mother Isabel Headley was born in 1869 in Newton-on-Ouse, North of York, the eldest child of William and Jane Headley.   Their growing family, including Mary Ann who was to become the mother of John William Spink, moved around North Yorkshire as William took up a variety of agricultural work.   By the 1890’s Isobel had left home and spent some time as a servant for a Vicar near Richmond.   Her 14 year old sister Mary Ann was employed as a nurse in the same household.

Isabel then went to work as a Domestic Housekeeper at Murton Farm, Sutton-on-the Forest, near Easingwold, the home of farmer William Dennis and his family.  On 12th December 1898 Isabel made the short journey to Stillington to register the birth of Harry born 14th October 1898 at Murton Farm.  By 1901 Isabel and her son Harry had returned to live with Harry’s grandparents at Redvers Mount, Norristhorpe.   There were 10 adults and children at that address.  In 1905 Isabel married Arthur Agar West a farm worker and by 1911 Arthur, Isabel and Harry were living in Stamford Bridge near York.

Harry Headley enlisted on 21st May 1917 at Beverley with the East Yorkshire Regiment, service number 54783.  After training in Withernsea on the East Yorkshire coast he went to France on 20th September 1918 and at some point was transferred to the 20th Battalion, Manchester Regiment.  The Battalion was in action shortly after Private Headley joined them.  An attack was made on 20th October towards the village of Pommereuil east of Le Cateau, but came under heavy machine gun fire.  On Wednesday 23rd October 1918, three British Armies attacked along their front at 01:20am.  Wading through the Richemont Stream, the 20th Manchesters moved towards Pommereuil and the woods beyond the village.  Darkness and smoke covered the battlefield and little communication was possible between the groups of soldiers as they advanced.  Though they achieved their objectives the Battalion suffered very heavy casualties when caught in orchards by heavy fire from German positions in hedges (see also notes for William Henry Spink).  It is possible that Harry met his death here.  In October the Battalion had lost 406 men killed, wounded, missing or sick.

On 23rd March 1919 Harry’s mother was still living at Brickyard Cottage, Stamford Bridge and was sent £2 11s 3d in arrears of pay followed by a war gratuity of £3 on 5th December 1919.

Harry is buried in Pommereuil British Cemetery just five miles from the grave of his cousin John William Spink.   Private Headley was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  He is also commemorated on the Calvary Cross in the churchyard of St John the Baptist, Stamford Bridge as well as the War Memorial in Green Park, Heckmondwike.

As well as Harry Headley and John William Spink, two uncles, who survived the war, are remembered in the Heckmondwike Roll of Honour.   All have been given the same address of 9, Brooke Street, Heckmondwike.   The surviving sons of William and Jane Headley are Fred Harper Headley, Private 13740 of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.   He was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.   Christopher Henry Headley was in the Royal Garrison Artillery as Gunner 388213 and was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.{JG-067}

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