Poppy Logo

Harry Simpson

Private Harry Simpson, 16546, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 7th Battalion

Harry Simpson was born in spring 1883, the youngest child and only son of Ossett born rag grinder Henry Simpson and his wife, Ann (nee Oldroyd), who married in early 1860. Sadly, Ann died in early 1891, leaving Henry a widower with four children living at Halifax Road, Batley. All of the children were born in Ossett.

In 1901, Harry and his sister, Emily, were living with their 65 year-old father in Batley. Harry was 19 years of age and working as a rag grinder. By 1911, Harry had moved in with his brother-in-law and his wife and son in Gladstone Street, Dewsbury. Harry was working as a card cleaner for a woollen manufacturer.

Harry Simpson married Alice Cass in late 1914 in the Dewsbury Registration District. Alice Simpson died in the Dewsbury area in 1919 at the early age of 40 years.

Harry Simpson’s army service record has not survived, but it is known that he enlisted in Dewsbury and joined the 7th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry with regimental service number 16546. He died on the 12th April 1915, and is buried at the Tidworth Military Cemetery in Wiltshire. The Cemetery was directly connected with training grounds on, or near, Salisbury Plain.

The 7th (Service) Battalion of KOYLI was Formed at Pontefract on the 12th September 1914 as part of the Army Orders authorising Kitchener's Second New Army, K2 and attached to 61st Brigade in 20th (Light) Division. Early days were somewhat chaotic, the new volunteers having very few trained officers and NCOs to command them, no organised billets or equipment. The units of the Division first assembled in the Aldershot area with brigades at Blackdown, Deepcut and Cowshott. Artillery was particularly hard to come by, but eventually twelve old guns arrived from India in February 1915. When, in the same month, the Division moved to Witley, Godalming and Guildford, the artillery had to go by train as there were insufficient harnesses for the horses. Another move was made, to Salisbury Plain, in April 1915.

The Division was inspected by King George V at Knighton Down on the 24th June 1915, by which time all equipment had arrived and the Division was judged ready for war. On the 24 July 1915 they landed at Boulogne and on the 26th July 1915, the Division completed concentration in the Saint-Omer area, all units having crossed to France during the preceding few days. Early trench familiarisation and training took place in the Fleurbaix area. The Division served on the Western Front for the remainder of the war, taking part in many of the significant actions.

It seems that Harry Simpson died whilst in training around the time his battalion made the move to Salisbury Plain and before he was due to serve overseas. This might explain why it appears that is no medal card for Private Harry Simpson. In the event that he did not serve overseas he would have been entitled only to the British and Victory medals and this may be the reason why it has not been possible to locate a medal card for Harry. Harry has not been remembered on any Ossett Memorial or Roll of Honour and this was probably due to Harry and his family leaving Ossett before 1891.

The "Dewsbury Reporter" had this short obituary for him:

"Died For Motherland - Old Staincliffe Scholar and Thornhill Lees Workman - Another of the sons of the sone of the Heavy Woolen District has to be added to the Roll of Honour of those whose lives have been sacrificed for the Motherland. Private Harry Simpson of the 7th Battalion, K.O.Y.L.I., died on Monday at Lucknow Military Hospital, Tidworth, Hants, after being a patient for over a week suffering from cerebro-spinal fever.

He joined the Colours in September 1914, and was probably the first of the soldier-scholars from Staincliffe National Schools to pass away. He was 33 years old, and prior to enlistment was employed by Messrs. S. Firth and Sons, Hebble Mills, Thornhill Lees. He leaves a wife but no family; and she resides in Westtown.

Deceased formerly resided in Chapel Fold, Staincliffe, and was a member in recent years of the Young Men's Bible Class at Christ Church, Staincliffe, also a playing member of the Cricket Club."

Harry Simpson was not remembered on any Ossett Memorial or Roll of Honour probably because he and his family had left Ossett in the early 1890s. He is remembered in this 2014 biography and Roll of Honour because the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and/or the "U.K. Soldiers who Died in the Great War 1914-1918" listing records him as born or residing in Ossett.

Private Harry Simpson, husband of the late Alice Simpson, died aged 33 years, on the 12th April 1915 and is buried at grave reference C.142 at the Tidworth Military Cemetery,1 Wiltshire, England. A Visitor Information Panel was recently installed at Tidworth Military Cemetery to provide information about the war casualties buried here. This is one of many panels being erected to help raise awareness of First and Second World War graves in the UK (Mar 2014).

Tidworth Military Cemetery, which contains burials of both wars, was directly connected with training grounds on, or near, Salisbury Plain. During the First World War, the cemetery was used for burials from Tidworth and Fargo Military Hospitals and the 417 graves, many of them of Australian or New Zealand servicemen, are scattered throughout the cemetery.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site