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Harry WoodcockHarry Woodcock was born in Bolton in 1896. Appearing in the 1911 census at 43 Coe Street, Great Lever with him are, his father James Woodcock 44 yrs a coal miner, mother Elizabeth Woodcock nee Borsay 39 yrs, his half sister Alice Borsay 26yrs,and siblings  James 20yrs to become a soldier also,  Sarah  19yrs , Nancy 10yrs and Ellis 9yrs. Harry attended the Holy Trinity Sunday and day school and on attaining working age he followed his older family members into the cotton mills at Messrs James Marsden & Sons, No 4 Albion Mills in Great Lever as a piecer.

On the outbreak of war he enlisted at Bolton on 29th March 1915 into the 2/5th battalion LNL and became Pte 4134 (later 241876), Signal Section. Nearly two years passed before Harry was sent to France on 9th February 1917. Within three months of landing both he and his friend Pte John Clayton had won the first MM’s for bravery in the field of their battalion. Their actions took place whilst the battalion was posted at the Cordonnerie Sector of the front line. The Reverend C.W. Banks-Gale Church of England Chaplain attached to the 2/5th bn writes to the vicar of Holy Trinity Rev Taylor-Evans:

“I have great pleasure in telling you that Signaller H Woodcock, a member of your Church has been awarded the Military Medal. Together with a comrade he repaired a telephone wire under heavy shell fire. Those are the first two to receive a reward in this battalion. He is an exceptionally nice young lad, and I am very fond of him. He is most regular in taking his Communion.”

The following appeared in the Bolton Evening News of Saturday March 16th 1918.

S.O.S. Line Renewed.   “Pte H Woodcock and Pte John Clayton of the 2-5th L.N.L. Regiment were awarded the Military Medal on May 4th 1917 for conspicuous gallantry. The enemy began to shell the front line heavily with high explosive and shrapnel. One of the first shells made a direct hit on the S.O.S. line. Without a moment’s hesitation Pte Woodcock and Pte Clayton ran down the line under heavy shell fire, collected the ends of the wire out of the shell crater and joined them. This work took from eight to ten minutes under continuous shell fire. It was owing to these men’s resource, devotion to duty, and disregard of personal danger that communication on the S.O.S. line was re-established. “

Clayton was later to be killed in action on the morning of October 26th 1917, in the 2-5th LNL attack from Poelcapelle.

Woodcock received a certificate of congratulation from the Divisional General for this work.  He later took part in the big engagement at Messines and was wounded whilst in billet at Armentieres.

He was discharged from the army on 1st April 1919 as no longer fit for military service. Unfortunately his soldier’s papers appear not to have survived.

His Military Medal was presented to him by the Mayor of Bolton Knowles Edge at a gathering in the Mayors Dining Room at Bolton Town Hall on Saturday 16th March 1918.

Garry Farmer
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