Wounded twice but lived to 97!

Harry Appleyard grew up in East Ardsley where he helped his father run his market gardening business. He joined up on the 6th December 1915 at Pontefract when he was 19. He is described as being 5 feet 4 inches tall with a 31 inch chest and weighing 122 lbs, he also had large scar on top of his head!

Harry was initially posted to the army reserve for training and then on the 2nd march 1916 to the 3rd (Reserve )Battalion of the K.O.Y.L.I. who were then based in Hull. However in April 1916 the battalion moved to Withensea. His son records that his father remembered beings barracked in Withensea for a while and that Patrington Church was used as a signalling point during exercises. He also recalled firing exercises on the coastal firing ranges and using the hand worked rail line along Spurn Point. In October the battalion again moved and this time to Hedon near Hull. Around this time Harry must have had an accident, for on the 26th October 1916 he was admitted to Reckitts Hospital in Hull with a broken collar bone. Reckitts hospital was located in the social hall of the Reckitt company (now Reckitt & Colman) it held 45 beds and was entirely funded by the Reckitt family and staffed by Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses. Harry staid in Hospital until the 7th November when he transferred to the “convalescent home Wilton” which I have been unable to trace.

Harry’s move to the war appears to have been a surprise as he recalled being woken up in the middle of the night and put on a train to the south coast. He embarked at Folkstone and on the same day the 1st of March 1917 arrived at Boulogne  in France. From there he travelled to the infamous Etaple camp half an hour away on the coast. This was the British Army’s largest base in France and could hold up to 100,000 troops, here soldiers were “toughened up” ready to go to the front. Conditions in the camp were poor and Harry was twice treated for Scabies during his time there. Each Regiment had its own area and Harry initially joined the 9th Battalion on the 2nd of March before being posted to the 6th Battalion in the field on the 26th of March.


At this time the 6th battalion was preparing for the battle of Arras at Berneville, from there they moved up to the caves at Ronville just behind the front line. The caves were apparently very quiet as the shelling could not be heard. From there Harry would have moved to the trenches where the attack commences on the 9th of April at 7.34 with support being provided by 6 tanks. Pine Trench was soon taken and then the attack moved on to capture Fir Ally redoubt and Telegraph Hill both of which formed part of the Hindenburg Line. The battalion consolidated its position and the attack continued the next day with relief coming at 4.30pm when the unit was withdrawn to the old front line. During these 2 days of hard fighting 28 men were killed 131 wounded and 1 reported as missing. The 6th then marched to Agnez les Duisens in a blizzard before arriving at Sus St leger on the 14th of April to re organise. On the 2nd May the battalion was back in the line at Cojeul Switch before moving up to Wancourt.

The accounts of the 6th battalion are rather vague after this until the 12th July when they moved to join the IX Corps, Second Army. They travelled by train from Doullens to Bailleul and then marched to camp at Montnoir where they were inspected on the 26th July. On the 3rd of August Harry was promoted to lance corporal but he remained unpaid for the role! From the 3rd to the 18th of August he had another outbreak of Scabies but was back with his unit in time for the next attack. On the 21st of August they move back up to the front line at Sanctury Wood ,during this move which was at night they were shelled and had to wear box respirators as some of the shells contained gas. At 7am on the 22nd they supported the attack on Inverness copse. Digging themselves in under fire, a counter attack by the enemy was driven off. During the day 3 men were killed and 72 wounded- including Harry. He was admitted to the 42nd File Ambulance unit with gunshot wounds to his right arm and left forearm. Though he later told his son that he had suffered shrapnel wounds?  He was rapidly moved to the 3rd Stationary Hospital at Rouen which was located on the racecourse arriving there on the 22nd. By the 26th of August he was back in England. Which hospital he was transferred to is unrecorded but it is likely to have been in Portsmouth.


On the 10th January 1918 Harry was once again fit for duty and returned to the 3rd Reserve battalion which was then based at Hedon just outside Hull. On the 4th April 1918 he repeated his journey to Etaples via Folkstone and Boulogne, this time being temporarily posted to the 12th Battalion before joining the 5th Battalion in the field on the 16th April. At this time the battalion was recovering from the fighting at Bucquoy Wood where it had suffered severely during the German spring offensive. They had withdrawn to Authie to absorb and train the new drafts which were then arriving to fill the ranks. The Bucquoy sector being relatively quiet at this time. The 5th battalion were involved in minor fighting and raids in the Bucquoy sector until July the 14th when they marched from their camp at Couin to Doullens and there left by train to an unknown destination. They travelled via Paris, St Florentine & Acis to Sommesous where they detrained. Buses then took them via Chalons to Aulnay on the Marne. From there the battalion marched to Bisseuil where the morning of the 18th of July was spent bathing in the river! That night they marched again, this time to the Bois de Pourcey  near Reims where they prepared for an attack on the 20th. This area of the Champagne was completely different to the area they had left at Bucquoy and consisted of open fields with standing corn and dense woods. The barrage commenced at 8am and the 5th battalion advanced through woods studded with machine gun posts towards the Chateau of Commetreuil. The battalion suffered heavy casualties to well entrenched machine gunners and it was during this attack that Harry once again suffered a gun shot wound to his left wrist.

By the 24th of July Harry was back at the hospital in Rouen where he once again sent on to England and admitted to the 5th Southern General Hospital at Portsmouth which occupied various buildings in the Portsmouth area on the 25th July 1918. He stayed there until the 1st of August with his wound described as “bullet wound through lower end of radius above wrist. Wound rather septic! From the 5th he moved to Clayton Court military Hospital where he stayed until the 27th August and is listed as having “impaired movement of the wrist” .Clayton Court was a private house in East Liss, Hampshire which had been given up by Mr& Mrs Elger for use as a military hospital.

By the 14th September Harry was back in Pontefract at the KOYLI depot who passed him on to the Northern Command Depot at Ripon where he arrived the next day the 15th. During his time at Ripon North Barracks Harry remembered using the firing range just south of the Harrogate Road and marching to church on a Sunday with the band playing “The Great Little Army” which had been composed by K Alford in 1916. Harry remained at Ripon until November when on the 19th he was posted to the reserve unit with a medical category of D1 (which meant that he was unfit for service but could recover in 6 months) and returned to Pontefract. On the 10th of December 1918 Harry was in trouble and lost his lance stripe due to “absence”. This was signed by the officer commanding the 3rd (reserve) KOYLI who had moved to Patrington near Hull in August 1918. In Patrington Harry was assessed for a disability statement on the 24th of December this stated that the wound had healed well but that he still suffered pain when using his hand, his degree of disablement was assessed at 20% and he was awarded a small weekly allowance. Harry finally left the army and transferred to the reserve on the 14th of February 1919.


Harry returned to East Ardsley and work as a Market Gardener and on the 16th of October 1926 married Nelly Ward at St Mary Magdelin Church Outwood. He was then living on Station Road, East Ardsley. By 1939 the couple had moved to 34 Common Lane, East Ardsley and there their son Derek was born in the 2 quarter of 1930. They remained at this address until 1986 when Nellie died on the 17th of February. Sometime after this Harry moved to the Cedars Residential home at Methly where he died on the 21st of October 1993 aged 97

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