243404 PTE. H. FLETCHER. MM. L.N.LAN.R
Harold Fletcher was born in Leyland in 1889; he was the son of Thomas and Mary Ellen Fletcher (née Livesey). Thomas Fletcher was a stonemason and originally from Liverpool and his wife Mary Ellen was from Chorley. Thomas and Mary Ellen were married in 1876 in Chorley and they had ten children altogether including Harold. The first one born was Mary Livesey (b.1877), then Alice (b.1879), Walter (1881-1884), Elizabeth Ann (1883-1885), Flora (b.1885), Francis (b.1887), Thomas (b.1890 d.1891), Ruth (b.1892) and finally Teresa Ellen (b.1899).
The family lived for a while in Chorley then moved to Leyland so by the time of the 1911 Census the family home was Holly Bank, Leyland Lane, Leyland. The 1911 Census shows Harold living at home with his parents Thomas and Mary Ellen, brother Francis and sisters Alice, Ruth and Teresa. Harold was working as a scutcher and mangler in a bleaching works. Harold appears on the Hope Terrace Memorial but it’s not clear what his connection with Lostock Hall was - presumably because his wife's family lived at Woodcock Hall in Cuerden.
On 9 February 1916 Harold went back to Chorley and enlisted, he was posted into the 4/5th Battalion and given the service number 7991. This would later become 243404.
At some time during 1916 Harold married Jane Smith in Leyland.
At 11.30am on 11 February 1917 the 4/5th Battalion left Blackdown and marched to Farnborough and there entrained for Folkestone. They sailed in the early afternoon of 12 February and arrived in France later that evening.
On the 14 March 1917 Harold was admitted to 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station with a self-inflicted (though possibly accidental) gunshot wound to a toe. He was then transferred to No.15 Casualty Clearing Station at Hazebrouck and placed in confinement awaiting trial. Harold was tried on 2 April 1917 for – “Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. Carelessly wounding himself in the left foot”. For this his sentence was 28 days. He finally re-joined his battalion on 8 May 1917.
At the beginning of 1918 the 4/5th Battalion officially ceased to exist as they were absorbed by the 1/5th Battalion. Harold was granted some home leave from 29 May 1918 returning to the front on 13 June 1918. He was killed just three months later. At the tine, 55th Division (of which 1/5Bn was a part) had just re-entered the battle area. On 27 August, they were at Delville Wood and they experienced very severe fighting between then and 2 September. After spending the night of 27 August in the open in the wood, they acted as ‘moppers-up’ as 172nd Brigade attacked in front of Hendecourt and Riencourt. They were in close support on 29 August when the Battalion attacked and captured Riencourt. On 2 September, there was hard fighting as the Division pushed the enemy back to the Canal du Nord and then cleared the trenches forward of the Drocourt-Quéant line. Private Harold Fletcher was killed in action on 2 September 1918, aged 28.
The following report appeared in the local paper after Harold died.
Harold’s personal effects were returned to his wife and included the following:
2 Rosaries (1 broken)
Metal cigarette case
1 watch key
Cards and memorial card
Metal watch and chain with 2 medallions
Small signet ring
Agenda book/1 book
Harold’s widow Jane (Jenny) finally received his Military Medal on 20 December 1918. She was also awarded a pension of 13s/9d for herself from 24 March 1919.
Service No: 243404
Date of Death: 02/09/1918
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/5th Bn.
Awards: M M
Memorial: VIS-EN-ARTOIS MEMORIAL
The main body of this article was written and researched by Janet Davis. I have added information about the action the Bn was engaged in from 27 August – 2 September 1918.