Private Harry EYRE


Regiment/Service:
Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)
Unit:
11th Battalion ("A" Company)
Service Number:
240575
(Formerly: 2438, 2/6th Battalion)
Date of Death:
24 September 1917 - Killed in Action
(Medal Index Card indicates 'Died')
Age:
20
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 100

Personal History:
According to his Service papers Harry was born on the 7th June 1897, the son of Thomas (Cab Driver) and Jane (née Barker) Eyre, at Barnes Yard, Spring Gardens, Buxton. He had five older brothers and sisters, William, Ada, Louisa, Thomas and Charles, and one younger brother, Frederick. (1901 Census RG 13/3270).

In 1911 (Census RG 14/21236) the family were at the same address, but after the War moved to 2 Park Garage, Buxton. When Harry enlisted in October 1914 he gave his occupation as "Billiard Marker".
Harry was 5 ft. 5 ins. (1.65 m) tall and weighed 8 st. 0 lbs. (50.8 kgs.) and had blue eyes, light brown hair and a 'fresh' complexion. His stated religion was Church of England.

Military History:
Harry originally enlisted in the 2/6th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters, on the 7th October 1914 (original number 2438) and transferred to the 1/6th on the 16th August 1915 and proceeded to France with the 3rd reinforcement to the 1/6th Battalion on the 19th August 1915, joining his Battalion in the field on the 24th, part of the 139th (Sherwood Forester) Brigade, 46th (North Midland) Division. On the 13th October 1915 the Division took part in the attack at the Hohenzollern Redoubt.

On the 24th November 1915 Harry received a "Scald - left foot", in the field, and two days later was treated at the "2nd London Casualty Clearing Station". The 54th (1/2nd London) C.C.S. arrived in France on 18th March 1915 and in November was based at Merville, 15 kilometres north of Bethune. He rejoined his Battalion of the 4th December, just in time to be ordered to proceed to Egypt on the 23rd December. As soon as they arrived, however, the move was countermanded and all units were returned to France.

In February 1916 Harry was again admitted to hospital, firstly in the field then, on the 11th, to the
20th C.C.S. based at Warlencourt, suffering from Pneumonia. A few days later, on the 20th, this
had developed into Bronchial Pneumonia and Harry was admitted to Hospital in Étaples, before
being invalided home to England on the 24th, when he was admitted to Beaufort War Hospital,
Bristol (right).

Harry was discharged on the 8th May and by the 18th May 1917 was passed fit for duty and posted
to the 5th Battalion and three weeks later, 9th June, was posted to the 1/5th Battalion. He embarked
from Folkestone for Boulogne on the 11th June to rejoin his Battalion. Another three weeks went
back before transferring again to the 11th Battalion (2nd July 1917).

The 11th (Service) Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters had been formed at Derby in September 1914 as part of K3 (Kitchener's Third New Army) and became part of 70th Brigade in the 23rd Division. They had landed at Boulogne 27 August 1915. The Division's first engagement after Harry's joined his new Battalion was The Battle of the Menin Road, 20th - 25th September, closely followed by The Battle of Polygon Wood, 26th September - 3rd October 1917, both phases of The Third Battle of Ypres. On the fourth day of the battle Harry lost his life.


                                                                                    

The Battalion History records that as early as 24th August the forthcoming offensive was taking shape whilst the 11th Battalion was in the Devonshire Camp, near Busseboon and the Commanding Officer and most of the N.C.O.s were studying a large scale model of the area in front of Polygon Wood, particularly Inverness Copse and Glencourse Wood.

On the 27th action seemed likely as the Battalion took over trenches around Half Way House, but the following day the orders were rescinded and the men marched back to Ypres. On the 19th September the men again left their assembly point. "The weather was exceedingly bad and the rain fell heavily all day."

The Australian Corps was detailed to take Polygon Wood, with the 23rd Division on their right in a line ".. running South from Reutelbeck Stream across and just below the Menin Road". As the attack progressed The Foresters would move forward, from position to position, taking over vacated trenches or resisting a German account on any part of the front.

"Enduring at all time some of the heaviest shelling that had been experienced, it was the night of the 23-24th when the first of the above contingencies happened." The Battalion moved into position and ".. the relief was carried out without incident, although the shelling was continuous al the next day".

The Battalion was relieved on the night of 24th - 25th and taken by lorry to a camp near Reninghelst. Eight other members of Harry's Battalion were killed in action on the same day, including Sgt. Bertram CUNLIFFE, from New Mills, Derbyshire. All nine have no known grave and are commemorated on the Tyne Cott Memorial to the Missing. Sergeant Cunliffe was "...  killed by a shell whilst serving in the trenches ... " suggesting Harry suffered the same fate.

Another local man, 21 year old L/Cpl. Thomas GARLICK, of "D" Company, 11th Battalion, had been killed in action three days earlier. He is also commemorated on the Tyne Cott Memorial, and also on his local Doveholes Memorial Derbyshire.

So after just 84 days with the 11th Battalion, Harry was posted as "Missing" on the 24th September 1917, although it took until the 13th July 1918 before his death was accepted by the War Office as occurring on that date. Even then Harry's next-of-kin were not informed for a further two weeks. In total he had served 2 years 353 days with the Colours.

In reporting the confirmation of Harry's death 'The Buxton Advertiser', 27th July 1918, quoted a letter from the Secretary of State for War:

"The King commands me to assure you of the true sympathy of His Majesty and The Queen in your sorrow. He whose loss you mourn died in the noblest of causes. His country will be ever grateful to him for the sacrifice he has made for freedom and justice. - (signed) Milner"

Sources:
· I am grateful to Martin McNeela for the information from the Battalion History.
· I am grateful to Judy Rieck for the photo of Harry's name on the Tyne Cot Memorial
· 'The Buxton Advertiser' 27 July 1918
· "The Men from the Greenwood: being the war history of the 11th-service-Battalion Sherwood Foresters" by Percy Fryer (1921) (pps. 96-7)

Commemorated on:
Link to CWGC Record
Tyne Cot Memorial
Private Hary Eyre's name on the Memorial
Pt Harry Eyre
Beaufort Hospital Bristol
poppy
.. about The Battle of Menin Road    
.. about The Battle of Polygon Wood