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Henry (a.k.a. Harry) Helm was born in Preston on the 23rd December 1897 to Thomas and Margaret Ann Helm (nee Wilson). Harry`s parents married in Preston in 1896 and they went on to have six daughters and four sons including Harry but sadly their eldest son Arthur died at the age of six.

  • Arthur (1896-1903)
  • Henry (1897)*
  • Margaret (1899)
  • Edith (1901)
  • Annie (1902)
  • Beatrice (1904)
  • Mary Rita (1907)
  • Arthur Clifford (1909)
  • Frank (1912)
  • Lilian (1913)

In 1901 Harry and his family lived at 50 Albert Road where his father Thomas was employed as a grocer at the Co-op. Harry started school in 1905 and attended the English Martyrs Roman Catholic School in Preston until the 11th January 1911 when he went into full time employment.

By 1911 the Helm family had moved to 101 Ripon Street in Preston, Thomas Helm was an assistant grocer and Harry had gone to work as a weaver in the Moor Hall Mill on Brook Street North.

Harry enlisted into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on the 16th October 1914 at the age of 16 years and 10 months although his papers show his `apparent age` was recorded as being 19 years old. Prior to his enlistment he was employed as a weaver and had been living at home with his parents at 101 Ripon Street in Preston. His medical report states that Harry was 5`4” tall and was in good physical condition. For official purposes he named his parents Thomas and Margaret as his next of kin.

After several months of training Harry sailed to France with the 1/4th Battalion on the 4th May 1915 and was a member of “B” Company. He had only been in France for about a month when on the 9th June 1915 he reported as sick suffering from influenza which kept him out of action for five days until the 13th June.

Two days later on the 15th June 1915 the Battalion were ordered to take part in their first major action attacking enemy positions between Rue d`Overt and Chappelle St. Roch in what would become known later as the “great bayonet charge”.

Extract from the Regimental History

“At 6pm on the 15th June 1915 the attack was launched by the 4th Loyal North Lancashire and the 6th Scottish Rifles. The attack was at first successful; the west end of the German salient was carried, and the attack pushed on to the main German line near the Rue d`Overt, and for a time the third German trench was occupied and held. Unfortunately the attack by the Division on the right of the 51st made little or no progress, and when night fell the 154th Brigade had penetrated the German line on a narrow front, but had both its flanks in the air. The attack consequently failed, but as stated in the Divisional History “great praise is due to the 154th Infantry Brigade for their advance in the face of heavy artillery and close range rifle and machine-gun fire, There is little or no doubt that had the operations on the flanks been successful, they would have had every prospect of holding their gains”.

After the Battalion had been relieved and had reached Le Touret only 243 men answered the roll call. After their first general action 431 men had been killed, wounded or were missing. Sadly, one of the names on the missing list was that of 17 year old Harry Helm from Preston.

A few weeks after Harry`s parents had been informed their son was missing in action they had the following photograph and information published in the local paper.

2927 Private Henry Helm B Coy 1-4th Battalion

Almost a year after he was posted missing the Military Authorities finally declared for official purposes that Harry` death had occurred on or since the 15th June 1915.

There is nothing in his service record to say whether any of his personal effects were ever returned to his family in Preston.

After the war Thomas Helm took receipt of the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals that his  17 year old son was entitled to. His family would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice for his country.

Harry Helm`s body was never recovered from the battlefield where he fell and as such he has no known grave. His name was later remembered on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.

Rank: Private
Service No: 2927
Date of Death: 15/06/1915
Age: 17
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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