Harry Gull

Harry Gull (15 June 1879 – 18 March 1917)

Harry Gull was the only son of Daniel and Emily Gull.  He lived near the Wheatsheaf with his wife Sarah Ann.  They too had one son, Alan Harry Gull who, with his wife Dora, continued to live in the village for the rest of their lives and at least at the time of their deaths their home was Well Cottage on Church Road near the Wheatsheaf so possibly that had been the family home for Harry and Sarah too .

Harry had had a steady job since at least the age of 21 as a Stationery Engine Stoker for the British Xylonite Company, the first British company to manufacture a plastic – celluloid.   In 1887 the company bought Brooklands Farm at Brantham to erect a purpose built factory.  As there was no accommodation for employees the company built Brantham New Village of about sixty houses.  Harry however still lived in Tattingstone and we can only wonder how he got to and from Brantham, it being unusual then for anyone to travel too far to work … not like now!  Harry seems to have been very proud of his job because in two census records he states his occupation as a “Stationery Engine Stoker” … obviously a rather special type of stoker!!

Harry enlisted on June 21st 1916 and served as a Private in the 5th Battalion Kings Shropshire Light Infantry in France.   You may be wondering why Harry joined a Shropshire Regiment?  Well records show that 130 men from the Suffolk Regiment were posted to the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry in 1916 so my guess is that Harry was one of them.   Soldiers were moved around in this way to make up numbers as the Army were suffering such great losses.

Harry was killed in action during the all important Battle of Arras and his Company Commander wrote of him “… he always did his duty and was a great comrade; and we feel his loss very much.  He was decently buried in the trenches and a cross has been erected over his grave … “.   I wonder how his loved ones felt about him being “decently buried in the trenches”?!!

Thanks to a Facebook page dedicated to the men who served in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry in the Great War, it is possible to know exactly what the 5th Battalion were doing at the time of Harry’s death.  With the use of regimental war diaries, each day a post is added with information on each Battalion’s activities exactly 100 years ago to the day.   For those militarians amongst you, below is the extract for the days 18 and 19 March 1917. (https://www.facebook.com/KSLI.Battlefields.tours)

“War Diaries of the 5th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry 

The Facebook page has been formed to remember the men of The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry-1914-19 by Annette Burgoyne.

18 March 1917

The 5th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry-“A” & “C” Companies hold Trenches H.38 to H.42, “B” are in Reserve, and “D” Coy are in the Huilerie, Ronville sector, Arras:-

During the early hours the Germans open heavy shell fire on the British line, also the 14th Division started getting reports from the 169th Brigade on it’s right that the Germans had retired from trenches in front of them and they had entered the German front line. On the 5/K.S.L.I.’s front, “A” Coy asked their covering Battery to open up on trenches H.38, 39 & 40. All was quite on the K.S.L.I.’s front by 4.5 a.m. with two of its men being wounded.

By 11.45 a.m. the 14th Division’s right Brigade (43rd) had patrols enter three of the German lines. During the afternoon the 5/K.S.L.I. sent out two officer patrols, one from the end of Halstead to the German Sap X.24, and the other one along the Sunken Road to Sap X.28 and met with no opposite. Strong patrols went out from the Battalion and found three lines of German trenches un-occupied. They reported the German trenches were in a bad state due to the weather and that the Germans had demolished their dug-outs (that would have been the explosions during the night of 17th/18th). A defensive line was taken up between M.5.b.30.45. and M.5.b.80.70. and a strong defensive left flank being formed along the line of the Sunk Road between G.35.d.60.08 and M.5.b.80.75. Bombing and blocking parties had orders to work in a north-easterly direction down the third German trenches until they met with Germans or the Road in G.36.c. was reached. These orders were carried out and road was reached, here strong double bombing blocks were built (later troops of the 9th Brigade, 3rd Division in cooperation with the 5/K.S.L.I., also entered three lines of Germans on it’s very far right, and also a small section of the German front line).

By 2.32 p.m. the 169th Brigade reported they were in Beaurain, and by 3.20 p.m. the 43rd Brigade had moved to a line between M.5.c.2.8. & M.5.a.85.10., and their patrols had reached the Beaurains-Tilloy Road but were fired at by machine guns as they tried to push on further.

There is a little confusion between the 5/K.S.L.I. War Diary and the Divisional and Brigade Diaries has to when the main body of the 5/K.S.L.I. moved forward, the Battalion’s Diary reports under the 19th March that “A” & “C” Coy’s move forward into the third German lines, and that “D” Coy had relieved these two companies in the original line, plus Battalion H.Q. moved from the factory to Hunter Street. The Division & Brigade Diaries report this taking place on the 18th March. The 42nd Brigade orders back this taking place on the 18th. I would think these movements took place during the night which may explain the difference.

There is also some confusion over the date of when the Battalion’s casualties were caused. According to the C.W.G.C. & S.D. all but one of those killed were killed on the 18th but the 5/K.S.L.I. War Diary only report two men wounded on the 18th and that it’s new lines were heavily shelled during 19th and in the words of the Diary causing considerable casualties. On the 21st at the end of the Battalion’s tour the War Diary reports 11 men killed and 45 wounded during the tour. To my mind most of the casualties occurred on the 19th March, so I am posting the list of those killed tomorrow.

 19 March 1917

The 5th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry-“A” & “C” Companies hold the old German trenches on Ronvile front, “D” Coy in support in trenches H.38 to H.42, “B” Coy in Reserve and Batt. H.Q. in Hunter Street:-

A communication trench is dug during the day.

Throughout the day the Germans shell their former trenches, which they know the range of very well and this means their fire is very accurate and the Battalion suffer considerable casualties in the words of it’s War Diary.

During the night patrols are sent out and find the next German line unoccupied so this trench is occupied by the Battalion between M.5.b.95.05 and G.36.c.6.2.

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The 5/K.S.L.I. men killed between the 18th-19th March, 100 years ago:-

(There then follows a list and details of all 16 men who died but I am only including Harry Gull’s information.)

20813 Pte. Harry, Gull, the son of Daniel and Emily Marie Gull; husband of Sarah Ann Gull, of Tattingstone, Ipswich.

Born Tattingstone, Suffolk

Enlisted Ipswich, Suffolk, highly likely in Suffolk Regiment

Transferred to 3/K.S.L.I. on 14-11-16 along with about 130 or so other men from the Suffolk Regiment*

Landed in France 29-11-16 Joined 4th I.B.D. *

Posted to 1/K.S.L.I. 29-11-16 but may not have joined them*

Posted to 5/K.S.L.I. on 10-12-16*

  1. in A. 18/03/17 aged 37.

His name is on the Arras Memorial.

Info. from Victory/British War Medal Roll, Ludlow Adv. 21-04-17, Soldiers Died & C.W.G.C.”

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With thanks to Annette Burgoyne for her Facebook information:  https://www.facebook.com/KSLI.Battlefields.tours