photo courtesy of Andrew Spence
Date of Death:10/05/1916
Regiment:King's Own(Royal Lancaster Regiment)
Harry Saxon was born in Royton in 1887.His parents were John and Sarah, both cotton workers. They had 16 children in total but 11 of these died in infancy - some of these being James Coote, Joseph, James and twins Lily and Violet. Harry's surviving siblings were Emily, John , Luke and Albert Edward.The 1891 census found them at 9 Seville's Yard, in 1894 they were at 9 Dyehouses (where Charles Riley was later to die) and then in 1901 they resided at 11 Radcliffe Street. By this time John and brother Harry were working as Cop Packers in one of the local cotton mills.
Harry was later to sign up as a territorial soldier, his service record says he was with the 6th Volunteer Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was Oldham's territorial unit and in 1908 became the Regiment's 10th Battalion. It would seem Harry must have been a very young man at the time he was with them. He then went on the army reserve before, in September 1911, joining the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment as a regular. He had his medical on September 14th and then joined his new regiment's 2nd Battalion in Jersey five days later. In 1912 Harry and the rest of the battalion were sent out to their new station in India. They were stationed first in Calcutta, then Lebong and Barrackpore.
Two years later on the outbreak of war the battalion was sent back to Europe. They returned to England on 22nd December 1914, by which time brother John had already been seriously wounded in France. It's possible that Harry may have had a chance for a visit back to Royton but may not have as his unit left Southampton on January 15th 1915, arriving in Le Havre the following day. They had been reviewed by the King before their departure. From Le Havre the 2nd King's Own entrained for the front, travelling by cattle truck to Hazebrouck. They then marched to a point where they were bussed to Vlamertinghe, west of Ypres before marching to the front line to the east of that town. They took over trenches which had been manned by the French Army. These were waterlogged and there were many French dead buried in or immediately behind the trenches. After only three days in these positions the battalion had lost no fewer than 140 men with frost bite. After a four day spell of rest the battalion were sent into support trenches on February 11th. They were to spend nine days there and three times during that period were sent up to the front line. The first time was when two platoons were sent to assist a battalion of the East Yorkshires recapture a lost trench. They first advanced through an East Yorks trench with twenty dead men leaning against the parapet still holding their rifles, all shot dead by enfilading fire and then found that the German trench was empty and was in fact little more than a water filled ditch. As they were only 150 yards from the enemy they had to stay put until relieved two days later. The battalion was again called upon to support the East Yorks on February 17th after the Germans had blown a mine near to one of their trenches. This had created a 25 foot deep crater and the Germans had then occupied both trench and crater. Two platoons of the 2nd King's Own were again sent to help and at the cost of 22 killed and 34 wounded they and the East Yorks pushed the Germans out of both trench and crater.
Then on February 20th, the day the battalion was to be relieved, Harry Saxon was to be grievously wounded. A sortie was sent out to recapture a lost trench. This was by D Company and two platoons of C Company. There was no opportunity to reconnoitre the ground and on emerging the two captains leading were both immediately wounded. The men pressed on up a gentle thinly wooded slope and captured the trench at bayonet point. The retreating Germans were pursued but upon reaching their own front line they counter attacked and the men of the 2nd King's Own were forced to retreat back themselves. A Second Lieutenant and 7 men were confirmed killed with the 2 Captains and 49 men wounded or missing. The death toll was evenutally established to be 24. Harry Saxon had been shot in the head but was still alive.
The men listed as having been killed the day Harry was injured were:
ALLDIS ERNEST 31 CSM 8498 from Stafford
ARTHUR ARTHUR Private 10221 born Newcastle,enlisted Lancaster
BIRD JAMES 24 Private 10667 from Liverpool
BROWN JAMES 23 Private 10386 from Lancaster
BUTCHER GEORGE Private 10135 born Carnforth,enlisted Lancaster
COLLETT FRED Lance Corporal 8668 from Manchester
COXON JOHN 24 Private 10459 born Bradford,enlisted Liverpool
DINSDALE GEORGE Private 10223 born Bangalore,enlisted Lancaster
DU FEU WALTER 25 Private 9945 from Jersey
DUNN HAROLD 22 Lance Corporal 10654 from Salford
FORBES-ROSS RALPH 18 2nd Lt.from London
GAWLER ARTHUR Lance Corporal 10308 born Great Harwood,enlisted Manchester
GREENFIELD ROWLAND 21 Private 2718 (also known as Frank Clayton).born Ipswich,enlisted Liverpool
HEATHCOTE JOHN Private 10371 born Buxton,enlisted Manchester
JONES ARTHUR Serjeant 5943 born Karachi,enlisted Lancaster
JONES ROBERT Private 4069 born Leigh,enlisted Atherton
KELLY ALFRED Private 9401 born Newry,enlisted Manchester
MARTIN SAMUEL Private 10212 born Ashton-under-Lyne,enlisted Manchester
PATTENDEN GEORGE 27 Private 9608 from Bexleyheath
PEATY HERBERT Lance Corporal 9592 born Queensferry,enlisted Ipswich
POULTNEY CHARLES 26 Private 9904 from Northampton
PRITCHARD GEORGE 30 Private 9450 from London
ROBINSON HARRY Private 9956 born Manchester,enlisted Lancaster
RODEN JOHN Private 9721 born Nantwich,enlisted Wem,Shropshire
Harry was to remain in hospital in France until March 4th when he was judged well enough to be sent back to England. Due to his head wound he was now recorded as being 'very slow of thought and speech'. He had an operation during the period he was in England and was listed as living at 76 Watkin Street in Rochdale. Perhaps this was some sort of convalescence home for wounded soldiers. His health obviously deteriorated further as the day before his death in May 1916 it was recommended that he be admitted to the 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester. He never made it there and died in Rochdale on May 10th 1916. He was buried with military honours on May 15th in Royton Cemetery. His coffin was covered with a Union Jack and a party of soldiers from Bury fired a volley over his grave with the Last Post being sounded afterwards.