Harry Pelham

Family story contributed by Henry Pelham

Harry Pelham was born 31 October 1887 in Leigh, near Reigate, to Henry and Mary Pelham (neé Chantler).  Harry was the second child and eldest boy, of eight surviving children (three boys and five girls).

On leaving Leigh Village School, Harry joined his father working on the land of a local estate (Mynthurst) as an Agricultural Labourer.  Harry later went to work at Netherne Asylum, near Coulsdon, as an Asylum Attendant.  It is from here that he enlisted on 15 November 1915.  He joined the Royal Garrison Artillery at Woolwich; his army number was 68578 with the rank of Gunner.

He was sent for training the next day (16 November 1915) and, following training, was mobilised on 29 February 1916, joining the 123rd Siege Battery in France, with which he remained until 18 June 1917.  The Siege Batteries did not keep war diaries themselves due to the part they played in battles, being constantly on the move wherever heavy bombardment was needed, and hopefully not to get located and targeted by opposing German Artillery.

The war diaries were kept by the Battalions to whom the Siege Batteries were allotted and it is from them it is possible to follow Harry’s unit.  The 123rd Siege Battery went to France armed with four 6 inch 26cwt Howitzers and on 18 July 1916 joined the third Army.  On 23 July he became part of the 47 Heavy Artillery Group, and was involved in defending Vimy Ridge against German attack and the battles of the Somme through 1916, and in 1917 the retreat of German Forces back to the Hindenburg line and the many battles of Arras and capture of surrounding areas.

Following the capture and defence of Roeux (13 – 16 May 1917) and action following the Hindenburg line (20 May – 16 June 1917). Harry Pelham was transferred to the Royal Artillery workshops in Boulogne on 18 June 1917, and became a ‘Gunner/Fitter’ and was involved with the maintenance and repair of Fire Power Equipment operated by the Royal Garrison Artillery.

Harry Pelham remained in Boulogne until 13 May 1919 when he was transferred to Beauval; he stayed there until 27 May 1919, when he was transferred back to England and released from the army.

Harry returned to working on the land with his father. In 1920 he married Louisa Elderfield and had two daughters, Marjorie and Evelyn. Harry continue to work on the estate and was given the task of starting and running a turkey farm by his employers. Unfortunately, Harry died in 1929, aged 43, and is buried in Leigh churchyard, Surrey.

This information has been gathered over a long period of time, and it must be mentioned that the family does not know when he had home leave; but, he must have done so, as pictures exist of him in uniform and were taken in Reigate, near his home in Leigh.

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