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Harold Poole was born in June 1881 at Broughton, near Preston, and baptised there on 3 July. His father was William Poole (b. 1858 in Preston), an insurance agent. His mother was Phebe Ellen Robinson (b. 1860 in Fleetwood). William and Phebe were married in Broughton in 1879 and they had two sons, Harold and William Henry (b. 1883). Both William and Phebe died quite young – Phebe in 1899 and William the following year. So in 1901, Harold was living with an uncle in Avenham in Preston and had started work as a painter’s apprentice. Harold married in 1907, to Annie Skerrow (b. 1886 in Blackburn). They had two children: Phoebe Ellen (b. 1908) and Harold (b. 1910). The family moved to Bamber Bridge in 1909, and in 1911 they were living at 4 Duke Street. Harold had followed his father into the insurance profession and was an agent.

Harold must have enlisted in late 1914 or early 1915. He was initially assigned service number 2687 and posted to 1/4 Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. When the new service numbers were introduced in 1917, Harold’s was 200686. Harold was posted to France on 8 August 1915, at which time 1/4Bn came under orders of 154th Brigade in 51st (Highland) Division. The Brigade had suffered heavy losses at Festubert and Harold was among the reinforcements that arrived later in the year. Towards the end of the year the Division was not engaged in any major offensives but rather was serving as an instructional division for New Army Divisions now arriving in France. In January 1916 the Battalion was transferred to 164th Brigade in 55th (West Lancashire Division) and they spent the early months of 1916 in the trenches near Arras. This was a relatively “quiet” period before the Division moved into the Battle of the Somme, it nonetheless suffered casualties of 63 officers and 1047 men killed, wounded or missing. Relieved by 11th (Northern) Division on 25 July 1916, the 55th now moved south and took up a place in the front line opposite the village of Guillemont. It then remained in France and Flanders and took part in the following engagements (all various phases of the Battle of the Somme): the Battle of Guillemont (4-6 September), the Battle of Ginchy (9 September), then after a short period of rest at Ribemont from 12 to 17 September, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (17-22 September) and finally the Battle of Morval (25-28 September).

In 1917, the Division spent the first half of the year in the Ypres Salient and had what was considered a relatively “quiet” time, despite being surrounded on three sides and under constant enemy artillery fire. The Division was then engaged in the opening phase of the Third Battle of Ypres. During the Battle of Pilckem Ridge (31 July – 2 August), in the Division’s attack in the area of Spree, Pond and Schuler Farms, no fewer than 168 officers and 3384 men were killed, wounded or missing. The Division was withdrawn to Recques for re-fit and training on 7 August. On 15 September, it returned to the same position it had left the previous month, under orders for the next phase of the offensive. Casualties during the next phase – the Battle of Menin Road Ridge (20 – 23 September) – were again very heavy: 127 officers and 2603 men, though the fight for Gallipoli, Schuler Farm and the Hanebeek was successful. Relieved by 39th Division, the 55th moved out of the line from 22/23 September and proceeded to a very different area, south of Cambrai. The position taken up was between Honnecourt wood and Lempire-Ronssoy.

During the Battle of Cambrai (20 November – 4 December), the Division supported the opening tank attack but then had to face the enemy counter attack which came on 30 November 1917. The German counter attack was rapid and almost bewildering, leaving 1/4Bn isolated and forced to withdraw to the area of Vaucellette Farm. In this southern part of the front, the British line was now well behind the line they had occupied at the start of the battle. William Poole died of wounds on 3 December 1917. He was 36 years old. During the Battle of Cambrai, 129 officers and men from 1/4 and 1/5 Battalions of the Loyals were killed. A list is appended here.

Rank: Private
Service No: 200686
Date of Death: 03/12/1917
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Grave Reference: VI. E. 22.
Cemetery: ROCQUIGNY-EQUANCOURT ROAD BRITISH CEMETERY, MANANCOURT

Bill Brierley

Bill Brierley

Before taking early retirement in 2007 and returning to his native Lancashire in 2009, Bill Brierley was head of the School of Languages and Area Studies at the University of Portsmouth.Bill has researched his own family history and has developed a further interest in World War 1 especially as it impacted on the villages of Lostock Hall and Bamber Bridge, where his family originates from.Bill has also displayed his work at Lostock Hall library and contributed to other displays at Leyland Library and South Ribble Museum.
Bill Brierley

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