‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

HAROLD TURNER
Date of Death:20/04/1916
Age:17
Rank:Private
Service No:20546
Regiment:King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
Unit:12th Bn.
Cemetery:
Royton Cemetery
Grave Ref:C. C.E. 1009.

Harold Turner was born in Royton in 1898, his parents being Frank and Sarah Ann. Sarah Ann died in 1900 at the age of only 38 leaving Frank with their three surviving children (of six). The other two being Ada & Robert.
At the time of the 1901 census, Harold was 2 years old and living as a boarder with William & Harriet Woodhead at 111 Castleton Road in Thornham. His father and the other two children were just along the road at number 127. In 1911 he was back with father Frank and brother Robert at nearby Springfield Lane.
On August 23rd 1915 Harold went to the recruiting station in Royton and lying about his age joined the army. He claimed to be 19 years and 4 months old (and therefore old enough to be sent to fight) but was in fact still 17. At the time he was a piecer in one of the local mills.  Harold was only five foot tall but while in the pre war days this would have barred him from the army (the minimum height was 5 foot 3 inches) there were now 'Bantam Battalions' for shorter men to join. These units were drawn from industrial and coal mining areas where short stature was no sign of weakness and probably also rather more common. Harold was sent to Lancaster to join the 11th Battalion King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment , he remained with this battalion until February 26th 1916 when he was transferred to the 12th Battalion. The 11th were preparing for overseas service and went out to France that June, the 12th was being transformed into a training battalion. It's possible that his true age was discovered and someone within the KORL decided to transfer him or perhaps his father managed to successfully intercede where so many other parents failed.
Tragically Harold was to die shortly afterwards of peritonitis at Lancaster Royal Infirmary. His surviving army record states it was on April 19th but all other records state the 20th.
His father arranged to have Harold's body brought back home and he was buried with military honours on the afternoon of Monday April 24th 1916 at Royton Cemetery. There was a large attendance of people and many lined the streets as the cortege proceeded down from Thornham to the cemetery. Wreaths were lain from the officers of the 12th & 13th Battalions, his comrades in the 12th and the Warrant Officers & NCO's of the KORL.


photo courtesy of Andrew Spence