All information above courtesy of Joan Stott
photo courtesy of Andrew Spence
Date of Death:22/07/1916
Awards:Military Medal,Mentioned in Despatches
Regiment:Royal Field Artillery
Unit:A Bty,49th Bde
Harold Mercer was born in Oldham in the early summer of 1892 the eldest son, and second child, of Arthur Mercer and Eliza Hardman. The family originated from Droylsden but came first to settle in Oldham and then to Royton shortly after Harold’s birth. In the 1901 Census the family is recorded as living at 109 High Barn Street, Royton.
Three further sons were born following the family’s move to Royton, Wallace in 1894 (who also went on to serve with the RFA), William in 1900 and Ernest in 1904. By 1904 there were seven family members, Arthur and Eliza Mercer and their five children, the eldest daughter Ethel, was born in Droylsden in 1891; another daughter, Eliza Hannah, died in infancy, 1898. The Mercer’s lived for a while in Shaw before settling back in Royon at 258 Turf Lane.
Arthur Mercer worked like so many others in the North West in the Cotton Industry. In the 1881 Census, before his marriage, he is listed as ‘Piecer on Cotton Mules’. However, by the time he moved to Royton he had risen to Manager of the Lion Mill.Harold followed in his father’s footsteps and by the time he enlisted was Assistant Secretary at the Lion.
He enlisted in Shaw in March 1915, first joining the Royal Horse Artillery before being transferred to the Royal Field Artillery. After completing his basic training in England he arrived in France on November 29th 1915. He distinguished himself in action in the summer of 1916, was mentioned in despatches and won the Military Medal for ‘having kept open the line of communication during a fierce attack’.
The award of his Military Medal was probably a posthumous one as shortly after that on July 12th, whilst his unit were engaged in supporting the British infantry involved in the deadly assaults of the Battle of the Somme, an exploding German shell wounded Harold in the right shoulder. He was seriously injured enough to be transferred back to England and sadly he died ten days after being hit, from haemorrhage, at Bramshott Military Hospital in Hampshire. His father was with him when he died. His body was brought back home and on Thursday July 27th he was buried in the family plot at Royton Cemetery.. There were many people present and many blinds were lowered as the coffin was taken through the town. Preceding the hearse were representatives of the Royton Wesleyan Church, the Royton PSA of which his father was President, and of the Lion Mill. A number of soldier friends attended and formed a guard of honour, saluting the coffin with it's Union Jack as it was carried from the house. The Oldham Chronicle listed the mourners in the first coach, all were direct relatives of Harold apart from a Miss Brierley - possibly Harold's girlfriend or fiancee?
After his injury Harold’s mother had received the following letter from his commanding officer – Captain J.Noorve:
I regret to have to inform you that your son, Corporal H.Mercer, of the battery under my command was wounded yesterday morning. He received a piece or two of shell in one shoulder. I saw the medical officer at the dressing station at which he was attended to, and he told me that the wound was not serious. I trust that this will prove to be so and that Corporal Mercer will soon be all right again. I am very sorry to lose him, for he was an able and conscientious nco. As you are no doubt aware, I had his name forward for mention in the last despatch, in which I was pleased to see it appear.