Harold, older brother of Basil , was born in Royton in 1887 and attended Blackshaw Lane school. He married his wife Annie at St.Mark's in Heyside in 1908 and they settled at Albion Street in Luzley Brook before moving to nearby Lily Street. Together they had three boys, George,Gilbert and Harold.They were 8,6 and 2 years old respectively when their father was killed.
Before enlisting in the army in early 1915 in Shaw,Harold was a minder at the Duchess Mill in that town. He became a member of the 6th Battalion King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. This unit had been formed in Lancaster in August 1914. Once it was deemed combat ready the 6th Battalion, originally earmarked for the Western Front were instead allocated to help reinforce the units that had been fighting the Turks at Gallipoli since April. On June 13th, 28 officers and 893 men of 6th King's Own embarked on the SS Nile and headed for Egypt. They then spent nearly a week at the port of Mudros, the great staging post for the Gallipoli campaign, on the Greek island of Lemnos. On the evening of July 6th the battalion headed for Cape Helles on the Gallipoli peninsula arriving there after sundown. The following afternoon they has their first glimpse of real trenches when they took over a small section of the reserve line. On July 14th the 38th Brigade (of which the 6th KORL was part) were allocated a sector of the front line and then a routine started of three days in the trenches and three out of them.
When in the line Harold Buckley and his comrades lived and slept in the front trench. The narrowness of the fire trench and the crowd in it made any movement very difficult and keeping it clean was a difficult matter. Dysentery began to take down the men, due largely to the vast amounts of flies which made life a burden throughout the daylight hours. They were everywhere, men could not help avoid but to eat and drink the creatures. The hot wind also blew up great clouds of dust that also fell into every meal and every drink.
The 6th KORL were not to remain at Cape Helles for long. A new landing was going to made further up the coast at Suvla Bay. On July 31st the men sailed back to Mudros. The plan for the fresh landing was that in addition the men landing at Suvla, attacks would be made from Anzac Cove - where the Australians and New Zealanders were fighting - to meet up with any successful advance and there would be also a feint attack made at Cape Helles to try to pin down as many Turkish troops as possible. The 6th KORL, as part of 38th Brigade, were sent into Anzac to help support the Australian and New Zealander attacks.
Harold's battalion was in reserve for the first few days of the fighting, which started on August 6th. At dawn on the 9th the Australians attacked a feature known as Abdul Rahman spur but were driven back to their original starting line with heavy losses. This was the line now partially held by the 6th KORL. The Australian survivors of the attack began to come through the KORL's positions at about 09:00. Very shortly after they had done so the Turkish counterattack came crashing down on Harold Buckley's unit. The 6th KORL, 4th South Wales Borderers and soldiers from the 4th Australian Brigade fought off the Turkish attack inflicting heavy losses on them. The Lancastrians had suffered losses of their own though, throughout the day under heavy fire from their flanks they had lost 6 officers and 120 men.
When this attack was over two companies of the King's Own were sent to plug a gap in the defences of a position known as 'the Farm', the remainding two remained with the South Wales Borderers and the Australians. The line here was held by a mix of companies of different units - men from the 38th,39th & 40th Brigades along with some Gurkhas. On August 10th the Turks attacked on all sides, attempting to cut off the British troops here from the rest of the Anzac forces. The Australians, South Wales Borderers and 2 companies of the 6th KORL held the line against almost overwhelming odds and the Turkish attack in that sector was utterly broken. Elsewhere though the situation became critical as masses of Turkish soldiers came rushing down the hill at their opponents who,given their momentum, couldn't stop even if they'd wanted to. The piles of their dead grew ever higher under rifle & machine gun fire and the shells of the British warships anchored offshore. Eventually the bloodbath was over and the line had been held. Another three 6th KORL officers had been killed and during the two days fighting the other rank casualties amounted to 45 killed, 150 wounded and 50 men missing.
The situation for those 150 wounded was a bad one. The large amounts of men from different units that were injured had to be taken by stretcher down the steep hillsides and through tortuous ravines and valleys down to the beach. The stretcher bearers worked until they dropped from exhaustion but they could not possible cope with the sheer numbers of casualties or the distances involved. The sides of the gullies were full of wounded men lying in the blazing sun and those who had reached the beach found that there were insufficient craft to evacuate them to the hospital ships.The fighting on August 10th was the last major action that the 6th KORL were involved in before they evacuated from Gallipoli on December 20th 1915. It is known that Harold Buckley was injured at Gallipoli and left the battalion and it's very probable that he was one of the unfortunates wounded repulsing the Turkish attacks on August 9th or 10th.
photo courtesy of Harold's grandson,Martin Paul Buckley
Harold would then have spent time back in England before being reassigned to the 1st Battalion, who were fighting out on the Western Front. It's not currently known when he joined this battalion but Harold was killed at the Third Battle of the Scarpe which was the last attempt by the British to gain ground during the Battle of Arras
The 1st Battalion were involved in the First Battle of the Scarpe on April 9th. That day they had been successful in one of the secondary waves of troops and had suffered relatively few casualties. On the morning of April 10th they received orders to attack the village of Roeux that afternoon from their positions in the village of Fampoux.
Across their path of advance was a railway embankment running from a bridge over the river to their right but leaving on the left an exposed view of a German strongpoint at a chemical works. A Company was to seize the railway bridge and provide covering fire for the other three to cross the embankment. A Company did seize the bridge, taking losses as they did so. At that point the other three companies left Fampoux but as soon as they began to advance came under sustained machine gun fire from the chemical works and could go no further. Snow began to fall and later on a German counterattack was fought off and then the battalion briefly went into reserve trenches on the far side of Fampoux. The following day they were again in action as part of the force attempting to wrest control of Rouex from the Germans. They, along with men of the Lancashire Fusiliers and Duke of Wellington's Regiment managed to gain a foothold on the railway embankment. Here, without greatcoats and no means of cooking the men suffered terribly in the cold and the snow. They weren't relieved until the early hours of April 13th and even then were only in what had been the original British front line until April 15th. The battalion's casualties over these days amounted to 9 officers and 311 other ranks.
The 1st King's Own returned to the by now familiar area between Fampoux and Roeux on April 30th. They were to go into action on May 3rd. The 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers and 2nd Essex Regiment were to lead the attack of the 12th Brigade with Harold Buckley's 1st KORL and the 2nd Duke of Wellington's being initially in support and then to take the lead once the initial objectives had been taken. The 1st KORL were down to just 307 other ranks by the time of their attack 37 of them are listed as being killed that day.
Before midnight the battalion moved through Fampoux to the assembly trenches on either side of the railway embankment. At 04:05 the men moved forward - A Company led the advance north of the railway line with B following, and C & D advanced on the other side. In the darkness B Company lost touch with A almost immediately. On the right the confusion was such that men of both C & D Companies found themselves advancing with the lead troops of the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Duke's. This group of men are believed to have gotten to the first German line but were forced back and were seen to be trying to dig in. That was the last that was seen of them and no further information came to light as to their eventual fate. Another party of men from C & D Companies were held up and dug in with the idea of their new position forming a 'jumping off' trench from which to carry on the advance if reinforcements arrived. As the morning light grew they found themselves pinned down under increasing sniper and machine gun fire. Wounded men and German prisoners attempting to make their way back to the British lines were fired upon by the enemy.
While this was all going on Battalion HQ was unable to ascertain the situation. German artillery kept up a barrage on the embankment and it was only possible for a few messages to get out to the troops or back from them. As time went on it became clear that the men of the 12th Brigade were in no position to press on with their attack, men from the different units were all mixed up together and they were pinned down by enemy fire. At 23:00 the 1st Rifle Brigade, borrowed from the 11th Brigade, and some men of the 1st KORL made an attack on a German position which although it came to nothing did allow many of those pinned down to withdraw.
Harold Buckley was one of those killed, and to compound the family's agony his brother Basil had been killed the week before only two miles or so away.
The British Army's official history had this to say on the failure of May 3rd:
“The confusion caused by the darkness; the speed with which the German artillery opened fire; the manner in which it concentrated upon the British infantry, almost neglecting the artillery; the intensity of its fire, the heaviest that many an experienced soldier had ever witnessed, seemingly unchecked by British counter-battery fire and lasting almost without slackening for fifteen hours; the readiness with which the German infantry yielded to the first assault and the energy of its counter-attack; and, it must be added, the bewilderment of the British infantry on finding itself in the open and its inability to withstand any resolute counter-attack.”
Along with Harold the other men to be killed (including a man from Oldham and another from Failsworth) were:
BARRETT JOHN Private 20115 from Liverpool
BENSON JAMES Private 27498 enlisted in Preston
BRAITHWAITE WILLIAM 23 Private 201862 from Great Harwood
BROWN GEORGE Private 27212 from Lincolnshire
BURGESS JAMES Private 17573 born Salford,enlisted Manchester
COE ALEXANDER 38 Private 11965 from Bolton
COOK ARTHUR Private 32918 born Motherwell,enlisted West Bromwich
COOMBES GEORGE Second Lt.
COYLE BERNARD 24 Private 241791 from St Annes on Sea
DIXON ARTHUR 30 Private 32517 from Penrith
DUNBAR WILLIAM 23 Private 11800 Son of Joseph&Mary Dunbar of Failsworth
ELWORTHY THOMAS 24 Mentioned in Despatches Second Lt.Son of Mary Elworthy of Hampstead
FORD THOMAS Lance Corp. 25564 Born Blackpool.Enlisted in Manchester
GENDALL HAROLD 25 Private 24383 from Scarborough
HARDERN DAVID Private 32168 Born Burton.enlisted in Barrow
HILL JOHN Lance Corp.17070 from Wigan
HUGHES JOHN 19 Private 200274 from Ulverston
HULME WILLIAM 31 Corporal 32771 from Salford
INNIS JAMES Serjeant 9519 from Barrow
JENNINGS WILLIAM 34 Private 27684 from Salford
MATEER CHARLES 19 Private 32087 from Dalton-in-Furness
MOORE WILLIAM 32 Private 24819 from Great Harwood
MURRAY CORNELIUS 36 Lance Corp. 201481 Son of Thomas&Elizabeth Murray of Oldham
NAPER FRANK 43 Captain from London
PREECE ALBERT 22 Private 27021 from Wolverhampton
RAWDEN EDWARD 23 Private 27288 from Boston,Lincs
READ HARRY Private 33407 from Burnley
RICHARDSON OLIVER Private 24596 from St Annes on Sea
RUSHTON WILLIAM 35 Serjeant 3706 from Beswick,Manchester
SMETHURST GEORGE 32 Private 24319 from Manchester
TILLOTSON JOHN Private 33404 from Colne
WALKER JAMES 23 Second Lt.from Salford
WALTERS JOHN 24 Lance Corp.14632 from Scarborough
WATSON THOMAS Private 201858 born in Barrow.Enlisted in Morecambe
WEATHERSBEE HENRY 35 Private 25993 from Camden Town
WHITEHEAD ERNEST Private 25628 from Rochdale
WHITWORTH JOHN 32 Private 33389 from Bacup
In May 1918 the following notices appeared for Harold and Basil in the Oldham Chronicle:
Days of sadness still come o'er us,
Hidden tears do often flow,
Memory keeps our dear ones near us
Although killed on year ago
Ever remembered by their sorrowing Mother,
Brothers and Sisters
O,the longing that comes o'er us
For vanished smiles and voices gone
Ever remembered by Uncle James and Aunt
Polly and Family
Date of Death:03/05/1917
Regiment:King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
Panel Reference:Bay 2.
Harold front centre. Courtesy of Martin Paul Buckley