Harry Coombs was Parish Clerk for St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and was a Reservist for the Scottish Fusiliers. The St Mary’s Parish Magazine recorded Harry’s dramatic experiences in France:
Harry… was called to serve at the beginning of the war, first at Glasgow and then shortly after in France. We are not revealing State secrets (there is no Censor here!) when we say that he was fighting near the Belgian border at Levantie – not far from Lille, when he and two comrades were buried with the bursting of a shell in the trenches. The latter lost their lives, and Coombs’ body was imprisoned, all but his head, and there he lay for 32 hours, while fierce fighting was going on all around and no one could be spared to attend to him. Coombs is somewhat crippled with sciatica and rheumatism. He is receiving massage and electric treatment at the Schiff Home, owing to the kindness of the Matron, the doctor and the Government masseuse, Miss Farmer.
On 9th December 1914 the Stoke D’Abernon Men’s Club held a smoking concert to welcome home their fellow member, Coombs. Coombs related his experiences first hand, telling how:
‘he eventually became unconscious and was extricated by his friends and removed to a French hospital, where he was most carefully looked after by French nurses’, before being returned to England. He said that ‘he considered himself lucky, because more than once he had given up hopes of ever getting back to England’.
St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, Parish Magazines, January to December 1914, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.