Queen’s South Africa Medal, 6 bars, Relief of Kimberley, Paardeberg, Driefontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Belfast, 4029 Private Harry Fletcher, Yorkshire Regiment.
Harry Fletcher, a local Yorkshireman from Bradford, served 12 years in the Yorkshire Regiment and spent the entire Boer War in South Africa, where he saw action in many battles earning his 6 bars to his medal.
During 1897 as a young soldier, he got into an argument with a Private Windsor at the Depot of the Yorkshire Regiment over some debts, a court of enquiry would be held when Fletcher was stabbed by a bayonet. Fletcher was unfazed by his brandishing of a Bayonet and being shouted at that “If you strike me again I will put a Bayonet into you.” Fletcher would then be stabbed numerous times in the left thigh.
He volunteered for service very early into WW1 during August 1914 and was accepted at the age of 39 into the West Riding Regiment, having spent a year at home he became an original member of the newly formed Machine Gun Corps, becoming part of the 32nd Brigade’s Company, which had been specially formed from the Machine Gun Sections of the various Yorkshire Regiments.
He would see service in the Mediterranean before arriving in France to fight in the First Battle of the Somme where the Company saw action at the Battles of Flers-Courcelette and Thiepval Ridge in 1916.
He saw many battles during 1917, including the Operations on the Ancre, during January, Battle of Messines, in June.
Then a number of battles during the Battles of Ypres, Battle of Langemarck (16-18 August), Fighting around St Julien (19,22 and 27th August), Battle of Polygon Wood (26th Sept – 3rd Oct), Battle of Broodseinde (4th Oct) and Battle of Poelcapelle (9th Oct).
Harry Fletcher, was born in 1875 in Bradford, Yorkshire. He first attested for service with the 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment during 1893 to escape his work as a Millhand in a Factory 2 months after reaching the age of 18 on 7th February 1893. He had been a member of the 3rd West Riding Regiment.
He saw the following overseas service over his 12 years of service:
Home, 7th Feb 1893 – 10th March 1898
Gibraltar, 11th March 1898 – 21st March 1899
Home, 22nd Mar 1899 – 23rd November 1899
South Africa 24th November 1899 – 6th September 1902
Home, 7th Sept 1902 – 6th Feb 1905.
He saw extensive early service in the Boer War, earning 6 “Battle” Bars to his medal.
Naturally when WW1 came about in 1914, Harry had been working as a Stoker at a Gas House when he quickly signed up at Halifax to serve on 6th August 1914 at the age of 39.
He started off with the 3rd Battalion West Riding Regiment, however this unit was a Reserve Battalion, and never any overseas service.
He joined the 11th battalion on 16th November 1914 followed by the 8th on 19th September 1915, which were all similarly reserve regiments that remained at home.
Understandably he took his chance to transfer to the 32nd Machine Gun Corps on 13th October 1915, the same month the Corps was officially formed and accepting volunteers for the new corps which would later be known as “The Suicide Club” for the huge target placed upon a machine gunner.
He was finally posted overseas and served with 32nd Company Machine Gun Corps in the Mediterranean Theatre from 19th September 1915 until 2nd July 1916, followed by service in France from 3rd July 1916 until 28th December 1917.
The 32nd Brigade Machine Gun Company, was a primarily Yorkshire Machine Gun Company, attached to the 32nd Brigade, 11th Northern Division, it had been formed from the machine Gun Sections of the 9th Bn West Yorkshire Regiment, 6th Bn Green Howards, 6th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment and Fletcher’s own 8th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment.
He finished his service at home and was discharged on 2nd April 1918 as no longer physically fit for war service.