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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 23091
10th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment
Who died on Tuesday, 8th August 1916
Age 25

No Known Grave. Pier & Face 10C 10D & 11A
Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", France1

Harold Lee was born in Beeston in 1891 2, the seventh child, fourth son of William (b. 1854, Attenborough, Notts) and Emma C Lee (b. 1861, Willoughby, Notts née Cluloe). In about 1890, the family moved from neighbouring Chilwell to Beeston, where William worked at the silk mill. In 1901 the family, now including 11 children, was living at 1 Gladstone Street, Beeston3. William died in 19043, leaving Emma to support this large family with the help of her older, working children. By 1911, the family had moved to 53 Imperial Road, Beeston and Harold had started work as a moulder in an iron foundry5.

As Harold's Army Service Record has not survived, we do not have a precise record of when he enlisted with the Sherwood Foresters, but it likely to have been sometime in the early months of the war, as he become part of 10th (Service) Battalion which was formed at Derby on 13th September 1914, coming under the command of 51st Brigade in 17th (Northern) Division. After initial training locally, the battalion underwent final training at Wool and West Lulworth Training Camps in Dorset and at Winchester. It had been intended to use the division for Home Defences but this decision was changed and the battalion left for France, landing at Boulogne on the 14th July 1915. As part of 17th Division it concentrated near St Omer and moved into the Southern Ypres salient for trench familiarisation, taking over the the front lines in that area. In the spring of 1916 they were in action at the Bluff, south east of Ypres on the Comines canal, then moved south to The Somme, seeing action during The Battle of Albert in which the Division captured Fricourt and took part in the Battle of Delville Wood.6.

Delville Wood - known as "Devil's Wood" by those who fought there - had been captured by the 1st South African Infantry Brigade on the 15th July 1916, who continued to hold it, at very great cost, until the 19th. The fighting had been, and would continue to be, extremely fierce and by the time it came to an end on the 3rd September the wood had been completely destroyed, with only the stumps of trees remaining. On 5th August, 10th Battalion had relieved the 9th Duke of Wellington Regiment at Longueval, taking over a line that was by now just a series of shell holes, roughly joined and with no connection between the front line and supporting trenches. Heavy shelling made all efforts to improve the position extremely difficult. Private Lee was killed in one of several unsuccessful attacks on Delville Wood, in conjunction with The Border Regiment, when they were held back by heavy machine gun and rapid rifle fire. During six days of fighting, 1 Officer and 43 other ranks from the battalion were killed and many more were injured7.

Private Lee's body was never identified and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing which now stands adjacent to the Leipzig Redoubt. The memorial was unveiled on the 1st August 1932 by the then Prince of Wales and is the largest British War Memorial in the world. Standing 150 feet high, it dominates the surrounding area. The memorial stands on a concrete raft 10ft thick, built 19ft below the ground, the solution to the problems of building over the warren of tunnels that formed the German second line. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens the memorial has sixteen masonry piers, where can be found, on the panel faces, the names of some 72,000 British and 830 South African soldiers who died and have no known grave, during the period starting in July 1915, when the British Third Army took over from the French, through the Somme battles of 1916, until 20th March 1918, the eve of the last great German offensive on the Somme. The focal point of the memorial is the Stone of Remembrance, which lies under the great arch and centrally between the piers, for which Rudyard Kipling chose a quotation from Ecclesiasticus, "There name liveth forevermore".

Private Lee was posthumously awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His mother, who had lost another of her sons, Harold's younger brother Albert, only in the previous month, was paid Harold's financial effects of 2 3s 5d on 3 October 1917 and his War Gratuity of 6 10s on 24 December 1919. By then, she had moved to 28 Imperial Road, Beeston. She died in 1930, aged 698.

1The photograph of the Thiepval Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q3/1891 (Ref 7b 191)
3Beeston, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 72
Albert's siblings were Sarah J (b. c1882), John H (b. c1883), William (b. c1885), Emma (b. c1887), Joseph (b. c1889), Alice (b. c1890), Frederick (b. c1893). Albert (1894-1916), Mary (b. c1897 and Leonard (b. c1898)
4William Lee's death was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q1/1906 (Ref 7b 113). He was 52.
5Beeston, 1911 Census, Piece 20428 RD429 SD3 ED3 Schedule 76
6Details of the battalion formation, training and early involvemnt in France are from a review of "10th (S) Battalion The Sherwood Foresters" by W N Hoyte, at www.naval-military-press.com
7This account of the battalion's involvement at Deleville Wood is based on the Battalion's war diary.
8Details of the payments are from the "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com. The amount of the gratuity tends to indicate that Harold enlisted in February 1915.
Emma is recorded at this new address in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial records.
Her death was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q4/1930 (Ref 7b 202). She was 69.

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