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Harold Canty was born in Portsmouth on 7th April 1891 to Ireland-born John Canty and Mary Kathleen (nee Clinch). By the time Harold was 10 years old he was living with his parents, three older brothers (Archibald, William and Leo), younger brother Daniel and two young sisters Kathleen & Eileen at Elvaston in Derbyshire. His father was employed as the night watchman at the Castle, having retired from the Royal Navy as a Petty Officer Class 1.

By the time of the 1911 census Harold was 20 years old and was living in as a student of St Mary’s College, Hammersmith, London. He then began his career in teaching.

On 12th June 1915 Harold enlisted as a Private into the 28th Battalion (Artists Rifles) with the number 4056. He was obviously extremely capable as he was appointed Lance Corporal in August 1915 and promoted to Corporal the following month.

Harold was soon commissioned and joined the 2/5th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment as a Second Lieutenant on 6th December 1915 [1]. In October 1916 he was granted the rank of Temporary Lieutenant [2] which he held until June the following year [3] until he was poisoned by gas and suffered shell-shock at Messines in June 1917. He was then sent back to the UK for convalescence and promoted substantive Lieutenant the following month, July 1917 [4].

Harold Canty, centre in convalescence (Click to Enlarge)

Harold Canty, centre in convalescence (Click to Enlarge)

Between October 1918 and October 1919 Harold was seconded to a Command Depot to be in charge of ‘Physical and Bayonet training’. During this period he was granted the rank of Temporary Captain [5],[6].

Harold Canty

Captain Harold Canty

Harold Canty relinquished his commission from the 5th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in December 1921 and was granted the rank of Captain.

After the war he returned to teaching and in September 1928 he became the first head teacher of St. Augustine’s Catholic Primary School, Beckenham Hill, South London. Harold had married Ursula Mary Jordan, also a school teacher, at Guardian Angels Church, Mile End, East London on the 24th July 1926 and they went on to have two daughters.

He volunteered for WW2 despite being 48 and having severe angina, but the War Office understandably declined his offer. He served as a Lieutenant in the Home Guard at Hartfield, where his Commanding Officer was AA Milne of Christopher Robin fame, until his angina became too severe even for this.

Family recall that Harold was called Major Canty to the end of his life. While no record has yet been found of promotion to Major, the ‘London County Council record of war service’ does note that Harold Canty (Teaching Staff, Education Officer’s Department) served in France for three years with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment as a Major.

Harold Canty died in 1951. His wife Ursula never remarried and died aged 97 in the year 2000.

[1]  https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29398/page/12345
[2] https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29781/supplement/9849
[3] https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30124/supplement/5736
[4] https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30368/supplement/11465
[5] https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30946/supplement/11960
[6] https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31611/supplement/12963
[7] https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/32555/supplement/10442

Paul McCormick
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2 Responses to Captain Harold Canty

  1. tony creedon says:

    Thankyou for this. Harold Canty was my grandfather and although he died 2 years before I was born through my mother I have known him all my life.
    He seems to have been a remarkable man and his family was extraordinary. You probably know already but his youngest brother Daniel died of his wounds after he was at Suvla bay and he is buried in Egypt and he is cited in the memorial to the war dead in Elvaston.
    Thankyou very much for gathering my grandfathers story. My mother – his eldest daughter, died a few months ago and she had never known where her dad fought and where he had sustained his injuries. She would be so pleased to both know and to see the recognition your work affords the father she loved so much.
    Best wishes

    Tony Creedon

    • David Bolton says:

      ref: Captain Harold Canty. Article dated 14 Oct 2015 and response from Mr Tony Creedon dated 2 December 2015.
      A few years ago I found in family photographs a postcard sized snap of pupils, perhaps a group of 35, taken in the snow at St Mary’s College Hammersmith dated 29 March 1909. As Harold Canty was at the college in 1911, he may be on this photograph. Perhaps this information could be passed onto Mr Creedon, and if he wishes I could send him a copy

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