Private Michael Henry
6th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers. No. 202346.
Formerly 18th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry. No. 202864.
Michael Henry was born in Keighley in 1900 to James Henry, a labourer aged 24 and Rose Anne Henry (nee Narey) a mill-hand aged 26, both of Keighley. James and Rose’s ages have been estimated and change several times according to official records. This suggests they may have been quite illiterate and unsure of their own date of birth, not uncommon for the time.
We have not been able to find a census record including Michael Henry. His parents were living at 86 Westgate in Keighley, a slum area of North Beck. They had four “boarders” living with them at the time, of varying ages and occupations. But surprisingly Michael was not included and he would have been one year old at the time, but he could have been at a relative's house.
Michael’s mother Rose was arrested for being drunk in Keighley on the 15th April 1901, a fortnight after the census was taken. She was imprisoned at HMP Wakefield for 1 month. This may have been one of the factors that caused his parents to separate, as by the time the 1911 census occurred James was living alone at 4 North Beck in Keighley. Later records show that Rose had moved to Burnley and remarried.
The information we have for Michael is very vague, however we are confident he was too young to serve as a soldier in WW1. Poignantly, news reports after his death reveal that as a youth, he was the drummer in the St Anne’s Boy Scouts, as well as a member for St Anne’s football team. He went on to become a doffer at Dugdale’s Mill in Burnley before enlisting.
The Keighley News report detailing Michael's death stated he was living in Turkey Street in Keighley upon his departure to France. This street and the surrounding area was once described by a Keighley Inspector of Nuisances as a “filthy and nauseous places”, with pig styes and manure heaps prevalent. This area has since been demolished and is now where Guardhouse stands. It is easy to appreciate that Michael’s early life living in filth, poverty and a broken home may have driven him to yearn for adventure, camaraderie and regular meals as a soldier in a far away country.
By the time Michael arrived on the frontlines on 28th June 1918, his father James had already been fighting in France for two years and had been wounded, recovering in a war hospital at the time. Michael had been serving with the Highland Light Infantry and was transferred to the King's Own Scottish Borderers before entering the front line. He had been there for only a month when he was killed in action at the age of 18. Unfortunately there is very little information in the Battalion war diary. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, four people from the Battalion were killed on that day.
Michael's body was buried at La Kreule Military Cemetery in Hazebrouck, France. His records show he is buried in Plot III, Row B, Grave 8.
Keighley News dated September 14th 1918, Page 3:
Private Michael Henry, Highland Light Infantry, and of 23, Turkey Street, Keighley, has been killed in action.
Private Henry, who was 18 years of age, joined the army at the age of 15, and had only been in France about a month.
He was formerly the drummer in the Keighley St. Annes Scouts, and a member of the St Annes Football Club.
His father, Private James Henry, has been in France about two years.
Burnley Express newspaper, October 1918:
SON KILLED, FATHER IN HOSPITAL.
PTE. MICHAEL HENRY.
Official news has been received that Pte. Michael Henry, 202346, King's Own Scottish Borderers, was killed in action on July 30th.
His mother resides at 41, Villiers Street, Burnley, and his father is in hospital in France, having been hurt two months ago whilst serving with a Labour Battalion.
The deceased soldier was only 18 1/2 years old. He joined the Army 3, 1/2 years ago when he was 15: but he only went to the front on July 28th last. He was formerly employed as a doffer at Dugdale's Mill, and is on the roll of honour at St. Mary Magdalene's Church.
There are two of deceased's uncles serving, and one has been discharged through wounds.
Michael's father James survived the war and passed away in 1927.
His mother Rose Ann Henry married John Isles in 1929 and in the 1939 register they were both retired and living at 93, Devonshire Street in Keighley. Rose died in 1955 aged about 79 years.
Michael's name appears on the St Anne's war memorial on North Street in Keighley.
He is also named in the Keighley roll of honour book held at Keighley Library.
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
British Army Service Records
British Army Medal Index Card and Medal Rolls
Soldiers Effects Records
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Records
West Yorkshire Electoral Rolls
England and Wales Death Records
Burnley Roll of Honour
Burnley Express newspaper
The Keighley News archives at Keighley Library