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Harry (Harold) Helmn (sometimes Helm, sometimes Helme) was born in Preston in the second quarter of 1876. His father was Thomas Helm, b. 1843 in Freckleton, a painter by trade; his mother was Margaret Sherburn (b. 1840 in Hull), a cotton weaver. Margaret had moved to Preston by 1861 and in 1867 she and Thomas were married at St John’s in Preston. They had 4 children: Elizabeth (b. 1870), Ada (b. 1872), Harold, and William (b. 1878).

Aged 25 in 1901, Harry was a brush maker, living with his parents at 38 Meadow Street in Preston, but in 1904 he married Mary Ellen Coffey (b. 1872 in Wigan; previously Mary Ellen Burton who married Joseph Coffey (b. 1870 in Preston) and they had two children Mary Ann, b. 1890 and John James b. 1893, before Joseph died in 1902). In 1904, just after they married, Harry and Mary Ellen moved to Bamber Bridge, where they had two children Harold (b. 1904) and Frank (b. 1907) and in 1911 they were living at 241 Station Road, Bamber Bridge, where Harry was now a bootmaker. John James (Harry’s stepson) was also living there.

So in February 1915, when Harry enlisted, he was 38 years old. He was posted to 6th (Service) Battalion L.N.LAN.R. which was part of Kitchener’s New Army and had been created on 8 August 1914. He arrived with other reinforcements from England at Suvla Bay on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 14 November 1915, 6Bn having first arrived in Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. By the time the new draft arrived in November, the decision had been taken to abandon the campaign and evacuate the Gallipoli Peninsula, but it would be an enormous and dangerous task to evacuate 80,000 men, with all their equipment and stores, from open beaches, under attack from an active and enterprising enemy. However, the Battalion did manage to withdraw and in mid-December sailed for Moudros on the Greek island of Lemnos. Around this time, British forces near Baghdad, in Mesopotamia, had come under severe attack and it had been decided that reinforcements, including 6Bn, would need to be sent. A month later they transferred to Egypt where they were re-equipped for their new theatre of war. They left Port Said on 14 February, arriving at Basra on 5 March, where they transferred to river boats and proceeded up the River Tigris to Sheikh Saad where by 1 April they formed part of a British Army of 30,000 men and 127 guns whose objective was to relieve the British and Indian troops besieged by the Turks in the city of Kut-al-Amara. The British had some initial success in an attack from 6-9 April, but ultimately this part of the campaign was a failure.

During this action, 6Bn had 7 men killed, 6 officers and 79 other ranks wounded, and 4 officers and 165 other ranks missing. Ultimately, however, the attempt to relieve Kut was a failure; the city surrendered on 28 April, after 24,000 men had been killed, wounded or taken prisoner in trying to bring it aid. The loss of Kut has been described as “the most abject capitulation in Britain’s military history.” The army commanders were replaced, the army reorganised and re-trained and a new campaign was launched, eventually leading to the capture of Baghdad on 11 March 1917.

Having survived the failed attempt to liberate Kut, Harry died on 4 June 1916, as a result of the heat and appalling conditions facing troops in the desert in Iraq in the summer, where malaria, cholera and dysentery were rife. He was 40 years old.

His effects of £3 16s 4d, plus a further 10s, and a War Gratuity of £5 were paid to his widow.

Rank: Private
Service No: 20097
Date of Death: 04/06/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 6th Bn.
Grave Reference: VIII. F. 2.

Bill Brierley
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