Private Harold Thomas Marples

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Private Harold Marples

16954, 7th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment who died of wounds on 19th July 1916, aged 27

Remembered with Honour
Barrow Hill Memorial
Staveley Parish Memorial
St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen (A.16.41.)

Ben Holmes Marples had been living on Hollingwood Common with his aunt Elizabeth and her husband, John Knowles, since childhood. John Knowles was a carpenter and taught his trade to young Ben.

Elizabeth Barnes was the daughter of an agricultural labourer and, aged 15, was a kitchen maid at Ashgate Lodge, Brampton, working for the Barnes family (no relation).

Ben and Elizabeth married in 1877 at Ecclesall, Sheffield, and made their home at 25, Orchard Street, Attercliffe cum Darnall where Ben worked as a joiner and where their daughters Fanny and Jessie were born. The family had moved to 12, Palmer Street in Attercliffe by 1891 and had grown to include sons George Holmes, John William and HAROLD THOMAS.

19 Holl Common WM

Cottages on Hollingwood Common

The death of Ben’s aunt, Elizabeth, in 1885 and the advanced age of his uncle, John Knowles, were probably factors in the family moving back to Hollingwood Common.

By 1901, John Knowles was 80 years old and still working as a carpenter. He shared his home, at 17, Hollingwood Common with nephew Ben, Ben’s wife Elizabeth, their married daughter Jessie (now Griffiths), 17 year old George and 14 year old John William, who both now worked as cast iron pipe moulders at the Staveley Works Foundry, and 12 year old Harold. Ben worked for Messrs Stone, builders, of Staveley.

After his uncle’s death in 1906, Ben continued to live at the cottage with his family and, by 1911, was described as a Joiner/House Builder. George, 27, and Harold, 22, were both still living at home and working as iron moulders for the Staveley Coal and Iron Company at the nearby works and Margery Griffiths, Jessies daughter, was living with the family. Fanny and John William had both married.

Harold enlisted at Staveley with the 7th (Service) Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment (16954) which had been formed as part of Kitchener’s Second Army and attached as Army Troops to 15th (Scottish Division). According to the Derbyshire Times, he “joined the army in January 1915.”

In April 1915 the battalion was transferred to the 110th Brigade, 37th Division and concentrated at Cholderton on Salisbury Plain. The units were inspected by King George V at Sidbury Hill on 25th June and on 22nd July 1915 the Division began to cross the English Channel. Harold’s Medal Index Card notes that he landed in France, with the 7th Battalion, on 29th July 1915 where they were concentrated near Tilques.

At the beginning of July 1916, the Battalion was transferred with the Brigade to the 21st Division who were then heavily engaged in the first key phase of the Battle of the Somme at the Battle of Albert.

Marples war

The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, (14-17 July 1916) comprised part of the second phase of the Somme Offensive.

Harold’s 7thBattalion had been deployed to attack Bazentin-le-Petit Wood and village on the morning of the 14th July. Zero hour was 03:25 and dawn was just breaking. When the officers blew their whistles to start the advance they were met by a hail of artillery and machine gun fire.

The 7th Battalion war diary for that day records:

“Throughout the morning the enemy kept up an intermittent bombardment with 150mm Howitzers and. a few 77mm’s, which grew in intensity about midday and during the afternoon. About 1pm it was believed that the Germans were still holding the entire edge of the wood at the north western corner and an assaulting party of the 7th and 9th Leicestershire Regiment was organised to clear them out……Our total casualties were 18 officers and 535 men killed and wounded.”

The battle cost the 21st Division 2,894 casualties.

Harold Thomas Marples died of his wounds on 19th July 1916. The Derbyshire Times reported that he had “died of wounds received in the recent push.” And that “the man’s father (Ben) went to France to see his son, who was then severely wounded and suffering from shock, but arrived just three hours after the death had taken place.”

During the First World War, Commonwealth camps and hospitals were stationed on the southern outskirts of Rouen. A base supply depot and the 3rd Echelon of General Headquarters were also established in the city. Almost all of the hospitals at Rouen remained there for practically the whole of the war. They included eight general, five stationary, one British Red Cross, one labour hospital, and No. 2 Convalescent Depot.

St SeverHarold Thomas Marples is buried in plot A.16.41. of the St Sever Cemetery, Rouen.

1914 15 trioHe was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

© Ann Lucas

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