Private Harry Leslie Caulder

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte H L Caulder
1/14th (County of London) Battalion (London Scottish)
Died of wounds, 26.12.1914
Age, 20

Harry Leslie Caulder was a pupil of St James’ School (Baker Street), a Boy Scout (1st Weybridge Troop), a railway clerk and finally a soldier. He was born in Weybridge on 15 July 1894 and baptised there at St. James’ Parish Church just three weeks later on 4 August. His parents were Henry James (b.c.1840, Kingsland, Middlesex) and Alice Hebburn Baker (1871-1896). Alice was born in Cambridge Town (Camberley since 1877), her mother, Ellen was a native of Weybridge. Harry’s grandfathers were, respectively, a domestic gardener and a butcher. In 1891, Alice and her sister worked at their uncle’s inn, The Cricketers, Bridge Road in Chertsey. She and Henry James Caulder married at Pancras, London in 1893. Their second son Frank Ernest was born in August 1895. Alice’s death in 1896 left Henry with two very small boys to bring up.

He remarried, to Rose Steel (1875-1934), in Ipswich in 1899. They went on to have two sons and two daughters. By 1901 the family had moved to Weybridge, living at Rock Cottage in Elm Grove Road. Henry continued to be a railway clerk. Harry joined the Weybridge Rifle Club and won many prizes for shooting. In 1910 he followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the London & SW Railway as a junior clerk in the Season Ticket Office, he earned £30 per year. This initial period of his working life was interrupted by illness as in 1911 he was in a Convalescent Home in East Blatchington in Sussex. At this stage the family home was still in Weybridge but at Kelpie, Springfield Meadows. Harry returned to work, no doubt welcoming a rise in his salary to £35 in August 1911. On 4 July 1912 he moved to the Goods Audit Office where his salary rose to £40 per year. By the time he enlisted in 1914 his annual salary was £60.

Harry and his brother Frank were among the first to enlist for military service, both doing so at the beginning of September. Frank served initially in the East Surreys before joining the Tank Corps. He was discharged on 31 March 1920. Harry joined up on 8 September 1914, by the end of the month he was in France. The London Scottish experienced a baptism of fire when they were thrust into the First Battle of Ypres (19 October-22 November 1914). On 29 October Harry and his comrades were transported by 34 London buses, through the night to Ypres. On 31 October they went into the line at Messines to counter-attack. The trenches formed a line a little in advance of the Messines-Wytschaete road. They were under the command of the Calvary Corps but when they reached the Calvary trenches there was no room so they had to find shelter where they could. They entrenched at dusk. The Germans broke through on their left at about 2am, but were repelled by the repeated bayonet charges of the battalion’s reserve company. By daylight the Germans had moved around both flanks so the battalion had no choice but to retreat, which they did under heavy rifle and machine gun fire. They had entered combat with 26 officers and 750 other ranks they left with 15 officers and 483 other ranks who had not become casualties.

During November Harry would have been in and out of the line; between 8th –13th every available man was in the trenches SE of Zillebeke where they were shelled heavily and attacked day and night. Their war diary records that this was a position of ‘constant anxiety’. Having come out of the line they were visited by both the King and the Prince of Wales. The King spoke of the good work they had done in the field. On 20 December they moved to Bethune where they were billeted in the theatre and on the 21st they were in the line again around Givenchy. Between then and Harry’s death on Boxing Day at 1st Field Ambulance from a gunshot wound to the head they were in and out of the line.

The precise circumstances of how Harry sustained his fatal injury are not known, but though wounded he left his trench to bring back another casualty. His military service had lasted just 110 days. In that short space of time this novice soldier had experienced some of the fiercest fighting in the desperate attempts to hold the German advance. Harry is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery (III.B.16), 29 km from Arras.

A month after his son’s death, Harry’s father wrote to the military authorities requesting the return of his son’s personal possessions including a watch and chain and a gold signet ring ‘ ….which he had referred to when writing to a young lady friend whilst out in France….’ He asked for them to be sent to his London work address not to his home in Weybridge. In due course he received the following: 3 pipes, a tobacco pouch, an identity disc, photographs and a gold ring. Harry left £113 7s 8d to his father, who remained in Weybridge until his death on 2 January 1931.

Sources:

British Army WW1 Pension Records, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index. 1837-1915, www.ancestry.co.uk
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, www.ancestry.co.uk
Memorial to the Masters and Old Boys of St James’ School, Weybridge, Who Fell in the Great War of 1914-1918, St James’ Church
Scouts First World War Roll of Honour, https://heritage.scouts.org.uk/explore/scouting-in-the-first-world-war/
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912, www.ancestry.co.uk
UK, Railway Employment Records, 1833-1956, www.ancestry.co.uk

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