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Harry Swallow

Harry SwallowPrivate Harry Swallow, 4205, York and Lancaster Regiment, 1st/4th (Hallamshire) Battalion

Harry Swallow was born in 1872 in the Wakefield Registration District, the son of Henry Swallow and Sarah (nee Preston) who had married at Skipton in 1863. In 1891, Henry Swallow, then a gardener and his wife Sarah were living on Owl Lane, Ossett with five children, four boys and one girl. Harry was the youngest son and was working as a coal miner like his brother Robert. His two elder brothers, James and Fred were milk men.

In 1896 Harry Swallow married Emily Blacker in the Dewsbury Registration District and in 1901, Harry and Gawthorpe-born Emily were living on Owl Lane where Harry was working as a farmer. In 1911 Harry and Emily were living at 4, South Place, Horbury Road, Ossett and Harry was again working as a coal miner. Their daughter is not in the household at the time of the census, which indicates that the couple have been married for 14 years and they had two children, one of whom died before April 1911.

The 1/4th (Hallamshire) Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment was formed in August 1914 at Sheffield as part of the 3rd West Riding Brigade, West Riding Division. The Battalion moved on mobilisation to Doncaster and then moved again in November 1914 to Gainsborough, going on in February 1915 to York. On the 14th April 1915, they landed at Boulogne and on the 15 May 1915 the formation became 148th Brigade in 49th (West Riding) Division.

Harry Swallow's service record has not survived, but he did not serve overseas before the 31st December 1915, and was awarded the British and Victory medals.

Private Swallow died from gunshot wounds received at the Battle of the Somme, most probably on the 3rd or 4th July 1916. The 1st/4th (Hallamshire) Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment appear to have been in the area of Theipval Wood during this period. Battalion Headquarters were at a place called 'Spey Side' on the edge of a marsh and close to the front line.1

"B Company relieved the Royal Irish Rifles in the "A" line at about 2am on the 3rd July. C Company was to have gone with them, but owing to very heavy shelling which caused casualties to runners, the order was not received, and A Company was sent instead, crossing the 'Old No Mans Land' without a casualty and arriving at about 6am.

A and B Companies had by no means a pleasant time. It had been impossible to get up any rations or water during the night of the 1st/2nd of July or the 2nd/3rd of July, and a water party going across to the A Line about 10am was scattered with shrapnel. On the 3rd July, they had to repel two bombing attacks, and at 8.30pm B Company extended their position by taking over about fifty yards of trench further to the left."

"At 9:30 a.m. on the 4th July 1916, the 49th Division counter-attacked towards German bombing parties around the north of Thiepval, but was unsuccessful. Two night attempts to take some machine-gun nests near St. Pierre Divion were also abortive. On the 7th July 1916, 49 Division suffered a heavy bombardment from 12:30 to 2:30 a.m. which centred on the Ancre and eventually focussed on the position north of Thiepval. The Germans launched a furious assault using the new light 'egg' grenades on two companies of the 1/4 KOYLI (148 Brigade) who were later reinforced by two companies of the 1/5 KOYLI. Bombers of the 1/5 York and Lancashires were sent forward, but soon after 6 a.m. the survivors were forced to withdraw to their old front line." 2

The "Ossett Observer", 3 had this obituary for Harry Swallow:

"Ossett's Fallen Brave - Many Severely Wounded - Military Funeral Yesterday - The death occurred in a hospital at Woolwich, on Sunday afternoon, from the effects of gunshot wounds received during the British advance in France some days previously of Private Harry Swallow (43), of the York and Lancaster Regiment, a married man, who was well-known in Gawthorpe and district, South Ossett and elsewhere. The deceased spent his early days in Gawthorpe, his parents occupying a farm in Owl-lane which deceased eventually worked, and at one time he had a milk round. During more recent years he has been engaged in colliery employment, and for some time prior to enlisting the army he resided with his wife and daughter at 4, South-place, Horbury-road, South Ossett, and worked at the Hartley Bank Colliery, Horbury.

It was just over twelve months ago that he joined the ranks, and after training he went out to France about three months ago. Hearing that he had been seriously wounded, and removed to a hospital at Woolwich, his wife, who, with her daughter, is now residing with her mother at Chickenley-lane, went to visit her husband last week-end, and the deceased expired after her return home. The funeral took place yesterday (Friday) afternoon at Holy Trinity Churchyard, Ossett, with military honours. Hundreds of persons assembled in the streets through which the cortege passed.

The body was brought from Woolwich to Dewsbury on Thursday, arriving there after eleven o'clock at night and it was met at the station by a party of wounded soldiers and military men on leave and conveyed to the deceased's home at the top of Chickenley-lane. The same party in charge of Sergeant-Major E. Hemingway, of Dewsbury, and a firing party consisting of eight members of the Yorkshire Light Infantry, from Pontefract, and several members of the local Volunteer Training Corps, attended the funeral. A large number of relatives and personal friends were also present.

The coffin, wrapped in a Union Jack, and covered with beautiful flowers, was bourne shoulder high into the church, and afterwards to the graveside, by the wounded soldiers, who were preceded by a firing party, with arms reversed, and the members of the V.T.C. The Rev. A. Middleton, vicar of Gawthorpe, officiated. At the conclusion of the funeral service the firing party fired three volleys over the grave and a bugler sounded the 'Last Post.' The floral tributes included one from neighbours at Chickenley Heath, bearing the inscription 'May his reward be as great as his sacrifice.' A permanent wreath from fellow members of the South Ossett Working Men's Club, was inscribed 'His duty well done,' many members of that and the Streetside clubs joining the cortege."

Battle of the Somme

Above: Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916: "Forward he cried from the rear and the front rank died. And the general sat and the lines on the map moved from side to side." words from "Us and Them" from the album "Dark Side of the Moon", Pink Floyd, 1973

Private Harry Swallow died in hospital on the 16th July 1916, aged 43 years, from wounds received during the Battle of the Somme. He is buried at grave reference 8. 10. in Holy Trinity Churchyard, 4 Holy Trinity Church, Ossett.


1. "History of the 1/4th York and Lancaster Regiment" for July 3rd 1916

2. "The Somme: the Day-By-Day Account" by Chris McCarthy, published 1998 by Brockhampton Press, ISBN 1 86019 8732

3. "Ossett Observer", 22nd July 1916

4. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site