After this action the 5th KSLI were withdrawn from the front line for four days. Before going back up to the trenches, another of the group of friends from Royton, Frank Hall wrote a letter to Harry's parents. It reached them in early September:

"Dear Mr & Mrs Wood - it is with very sad regret that I write to tell you that your Harry was killed in action on Thursday last doing his duty to the last. A number of men in his platoon were told off to hold a sap in the German second line earlier on in the day, and it was there where he met his death by the explosion of a bomb and was killed instantly. I can assure you that he had no pain, and by his death the Shropshires have lost a good man. Harry Mellor (another of the Royton men, not the same man on the memorial) was wounded earlier on in the day and I think he will go to England. I have been very lucky to come through without a scratch"

At the same time a letter from Harry's Commanding Officer:

"My dear Mrs Wood, I much regret to report that your son was killed in action on August 24th during an attack on enemy positions. He had done very good work during the time he had been with the battalion. I beg you to accept our deepest sympathy"

The other men from the 5th KSLI killed in Delville Wood that day were:

ALLSOPP GILBERT Lance Corporal 11046    
AMOS ALFRED Private 8528    
AUSTIN FREDERICK Private 17534    
AUSTIN PHILLIP 23 Private 11054 from Oxfordshire
BAILEY EDWIN Private 18127    
BARNES JESSE Private 16058    
BELLASIS PHILIP Captain        
BRYCE HARRY 39 Private 16454 from Bolton
CLARKE FRANK 21 Private 18328 from Shrewsbury
COOK FREDERICK 28 Lance Corporal 8715 from London
COURT CYRIL 20 Private 11060 from Herefordshire
COWGILL CEDRIC 24 Private 18297  from Nelson
CRADDOCK GEORGE  20 Private 6623 from Kidderminster
CUNNICK  WILLIAM Corporal 15549    
DAVIES JOHN 26 Lance Corporal 10636 from Shrewsbury
DOWNES RICHARD Private 17666    
DURKIN J Private 9621    
EATON CHARLES Private 18182    
ELLIOTT  ROBERT 25 2nd Lt. from Newport,Shropshire
EWELL E Private 17570    
FABER WALTER Lieutenant        
FORRESTER WILLIAM Private 10873    
GOULDING JOSEPH  42 MM Private 5486    
GRADY AUSTIN 23 Private  `0087 from Birmingham
GREEN ALFRED Private 17447    
GRIFFITHS GEORGE Private 18301    
GRIFFITHS WC Private 9695    
HARDING  WILLIAM 26 Private 17303 from Hereford
HARRIS SAMUEL Private 17750 from Wellington,Shropshire
HASSALL SIDNEY 29 Private 17894  from Ellesemere,Shropshire
HAYWARD A Private 19083    
HILL WILLIAM Private 17717    
HOLDER CHARLES 31 2nd Lt. from London
HOWELLS   JOHN 25 Private 10817 from Shrewsbury
HUFFADINE HENRY  Private 8068    
JUDGE CHARLES 20 Private 17061    
KING ARTHUR 25 MM Lance Serjeant 11495    
LAWRENCE RUDOLPH 21 2nd Lt. from Birmingham
LEWIS EVAN Lance Corporal 7996    
LLEWELLYN JH Captain        
MORRIS ALBERT Private 19077    
OWEN W 20 Private 4449 from Wellington,Shropshire
PEARCE ROBERT 22 Private 18330 from shropshire
POOLE WILLIAM 22 Private 10148 from Wellington,Shropshire
POWELL JOHN 18 Private 17988 from Cheshire
ROBERTS GEORGE 33 Private 18302 from Oswestry
ROBERTS  THOMAS 35 Private 11034 from Oswestry
ROBY WILFRED Private 20191    
ROWLANDS JOHN 22 Private 18039  from Shrewsbury
RYAN CHRISTOPHER Private 6483    
SIMPSON  VICTOR 2nd Lt.        
STOKES GEORGEPrivate 10507    
TAYLOR THOMAS Private 6023    
VAUGHAN RICHARD Private  17435    
WATERTON CHARLES Lance Corporal 17727    
WILSHAW  MALCOLM Private 15106 from Oswestry
YATES JOSEPH Private 16215   
 

Harry Wood was born in Royton on May 5th 1897. Harry's parents were Albert, who was born in Oldham, and Mary Emma who was a Royton native. Harry was the eldest of four boys, the others being Charles, Albert & Willie. At some point in 1900 or early 1901 they left Royton for neighbouring Crompton, at the time Albert was working as a navvy. The pull of Royton was obviously too strong as by 1907 they had returned and in November of that year were living at 1 Highlands. It was at that time that Albert and Mary Emma had all four of their sons were baptised at St.Paul's. By 1911 the Woods were living at 220 Middleton Road where Albert had set himself up as an ice cream manufacturer.
By the outbreak of war Harry was working as a piecer at the nearby Vine Mill and in June 1915 was one of a number of young friends from Royton who signed up with the King's Shropshire Light Infantry and saw service together in the 5th Battalion. Presumably the KSLI were short handed at the time and the Royton recruiting office was one of those to fill the gap.In October of that year the Royton lads were sent to the front as part of a replacement draft for the battalion who had been in France since May. They had suffered very heavy casualties at the Battle of Ypres in late September.
The first Royton lad to be killed with the 5th KSLI was James Mills , also 19 and from Middleton Road, who was killed by a sniper on February 2nd 1916. Just before he was killed James had written home to his parents describing what life was like in the trenches for men like himself and Harry Wood:

"They had a big bombardment and it is hell on earth. They are coming for hours at once, and sending trench mortars every night. The last time I was in the trenches I walked over three dead soldiers who had been riddled with bullets. It is nothing but murder here. When we have been on working parties we have had some one knocked out and that is more than we ever had at Ypres. We have lost more men here at once in the trenches than we did all the time we were at Ypres. I would sooner be in the trenches at Ypres than here"

The next of the Roytoners to be killed was James Beaty, also 19, the following month on March 18th. A sustained artillery bombardment had hit the battalion's front trenches,killing James & 2 others.  Harry Wood put pen to paper to write back to Royton. He couldn't bring himself to write directly to James Beaty's mother though but instead wrote to James' aunt and uncle (who were parents of yet another Royton man in the King's Shropshire Light Infantry, Leonard Newport:)

"Dear Mr and Mrs Newport,it is with great regret and sorrow that I write these few lines in informing you of the death of your nephew,Private James Beaty,who was killed in action on March 18th,1916 during a bombardment of the front line of our trenches.I really don't know how to express my sympathy for it came to me as a great shock when I knew he had been killed for Jim and I were the greatest of chums and I shall miss him very much.Somehow I feel that I dare not write to his mother,for I know how very hard she will take it when she has the news broken to her.The men of his company send you their deepest sympathy.He died almost immediately and dit not have much pain or suffering.They buried his remains quietly and gave him a burial service the next day"

The 5th KSLI were not involved in the opening stages of the Battle of the Somme which had begun on July 1st 1916 but were finally thrown into the fray on August 24th at Delville Wood. The wood had been a thick tangle of Oak and Birch trees with dense thickets of Hazel with avenues of grass intersecting it here and there. The battle had been raging there since July 15th with both sides suffering heavy casualties. It was perhaps the defining moment of South African involvement in the war and their national memorial is sited there today.


‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

On August 21st the battalion had occupied a line of trenches on the edge of the wood and then a continuous bombardment from the British artillery hammered the German lines during the 22nd and 23rd. Then, at 05.45 on the 24th the attack of the 42nd Brigade began.The 5th King's Shropshire Light Infantry were in the centre, 9th KRRC on their right flank and 5th Ox & Bucks on their left. The 5th Battalion's attack was successful and the enemy were cleared from the wood but this was a temporary state of affairs as their right flank became exposed when the 9th KRRC were stopped in their tracks. The battalion had no choice but to withdraw. They had captured 2 machine guns, 2 officers and 115 men but at a heavy cost. Total casualties were 7 officers and 194 men, the dead numbering 58. Harry Wood was one of those killed.

HARRY WOOD
Age:19
Date of Death:24/08/1916
Rank:Private
Service No:18324
Regiment:King's Shropshire Light Infantry
Unit:5th Bn.
Cemetery:
Delville Wood Cemetery
Grave Ref:XIII.I.6


Delville Wood pictured after the battle. Copyright IWM

An official British Military drawing from 1917 depicting the fighting at Delville Wood in 1916