Harold Kirby

Harold Kirby
Born in Cambridge in 1883, Harold (or Dick, as he was called) was the second eldest of five sons and two daughters born to Frederick and Emily (née Marham). One other child died in infancy. In 1891 the family lived in Royal Oak Yard, St Ives. By 1901 they moved to what became the family home in Priory Road, St Ives.

Harold's father was a self-employed carter, transporting goods using a light horse drawn two wheel carriage. He was also vice-chairman of the Workhouse Guardians, as reported in the Hunts Post of 18 July 1913. In 1901 Harold worked as a bread maker's apprentice. By 1911 he had followed his father's occupation, transporting coal for the St Ives Co-operative Society. Aged 28yrs, he still lived at the family home with three of his brothers.

In 1913 Harold married Mary Yardy. On the outbreak of war, Harold's father was active in encouraging local men to sign up, as reported in the Hunts Post of 8 January 1915. Harold's younger brother, Sidney, joined up too. Just as well, since he appears to have been a bit of a lad, up before the local court as reported in the Hunts Post on 18 July 1913 and 1 May 1914. He was also very brave, as indicated by his reaction to being wounded as reported on 12 November 1915.

In May 1916 Harold was still working for the St Ives Co-operative Society, but his appeal for exemption from call up was turned down, reported on 26 May 1916. He enlisted at Bedford with the 9th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment and after some months training embarked to France.

Harold fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge during early 1917 and was slightly injured. Returned to his Company, on Sunday 15 April 1917 they relocated to Cite St Pierre. The following evening they started moving up to the front line, completing by 3.00am on Tuesday 17 April. Occupying a trench, casualties were incurred from frequent enemy sniping. Throughout the day the Germans shelled the British positions with 4.2 and 5.9 howitzers. It was one of these shells that injured Harold, bursting shrapnel fracturing his jaw and leaving him with nasty wounds to his neck.

Extract from the East Surry Regiment War Diary for 17 April 1917
Casualties for April 1917
Lying severely wounded in Western Heights Hospital, Dover, Harold's condition was so serious his wife and mother were called for, as reported by the Hunts Post on 4 May 1917. After three days his condition improved and they returned home. Unfortunately Harold contracted severe pneumonia and died at 2.39am on Sunday 6 May 1917 aged 34yrs, as reported on 11 May 1917.

Harold received a funeral with military honours. The procession from Ramsey Road to the Free Church on Thursday 10 May brought St Ives to a standstill. The occasion was reported by the Hunts Post on 18 May 1917. Harold is buried in St Ives Public Cemetery. Harold's four brothers all served in the War and survived.

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Source materials
Click any of the links below to view original source materials.
1891 Census
1901 Census
1911 Census
Medal Rolls Index Card
Commonwealth War Graves Register
Commemorative Certificate

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