Lance Corporal John Henry (Harry) Wood

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Supported by the National Lottery's Heritage Fund, our project intends to submit about 120 names for peer review to add them to the book which is kept at Keighley Library. The unveiling of the book with it's new names is planned for November 2024, 100 years after the unveiling of the original war memorial.

Lance Corporal. 1/21st Battalion, London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles). Service No: 4146

A black and white photo of a man wearing a jacket and bow tie.

John Henry (Harry) Wood.

Early life:

Harry was born on 28th April 1892 at Danzig, Prussia. His parents were Hartley Wood, and Anna Wood née Shulz who had been married at St, George's Church in Berlin on 1st May 1889.
He had a older brother Herbert born 7th October 1890 and a sister Gertrude Elsa born 21st September 1894 and a younger brother Frank, born in 1896. Their father Hartley was an engineer by trade.

He received his preliminary education at Grunberg, in Prussia, and later at Berlin.

Sometime in the next few years Anna must have died. Hartley moved back to the UK and the children became naturalised British Citizens in 1896.

Henry and his brother Herbert attended Keighley Boy's Grammar School between 1904 and 1907.

The next record we found was the 1911 census. Hartley who was originally from Colne, Lancashire, was living at 33, Ann Street in Denholme and was a widower aged 46. He was a mechanical engineer employed as the chief engineer at Denholme Mills. His daughter Gertrude was aged 16 and boarding with Mr and Mrs. Watson at 12, William Street, just a short walk away from Hartley.
George Watson was a fish merchant on his own account and his wife Mary Maria assisted with the business. Gertrude may also have been working for them, keeping house while they were at work.

Harry and his brother Herbert were living in Keighley during the 1911 census, they were boarders with the Lowler family at 28, Parson Street in Keighley. Both Harry and Herbert had served with the Keighley Territorials for three or four years during this period.

A newspaper photo of a boxer standing in a fighting pose, facing the camera.

The Keighley boxer, Harry Wood in 1913.

Work-wise, they were both apprenticed with Messrs. Darling and Sellars as tool fitters aged 18 and 21. He is also believed to have worked for Ward and Haggas of Keighley, before enlisting and worked for an armament firm in Newcastle.
Harry was a well known Keighley boxer and had competed in 61 professional contests. There are a great many newspaper references to boxing matches he'd won or lost, taking place at various different venues in the country, between 1913 and 1916.

Harry married Annie Carrahar in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1914, registered in the third quarter of the year and they had a son, Henry born on 28th January 1915.

War service:

When the Boxer's Battalion was formed in London, Harry attested at Camberwell on 4th Jun 1915 when he signed the Imperial Service Obligation for overseas service. He was embodied on the same date with the 3rd/21st Battalion as a rifleman. His medical gives some details of his fitness, he was 23 years old, five feet and five inches tall, 10 stone 4 lbs, (Welterweight in boxing terms) with a 36 inch chest, good vision in both eyes and good physical development.
He gave his home address as 42, Sharwed Street, Kennington, South East London. He stated he had served with the 4th Yorkshire Light Infantry and had left under 'termination of engagement' meaning he had come to the end of his service. For the first six months in the Army, he was engaged in recruiting in London. He continued taking part in boxing matches across the country, representing himself and his battalion. On 1st January 1916 he had one punishment against his name for insolence towards an NCO and was confined to barracks with punishment drill for ten days.
Harry was transferred to the 1st/21st Battalion on 15th June 1916 when they embarked at Southampton and disembarked at Havre the next day. He joined his unit in the field on 4th July 1916. He was appointed as Lance Corporal on 2nd August.

Harry was killed in action on 15th September, 1916 whilst leading his section in an attack. He had served for one year and 104 days. Three months of which was in the war theatre.

War diary entry:

W0-95/2732/5 1/21st Battalion London Regiment:
Trenches. 14th Sept:
6.30 pm:
Battalion relieved by the whole of 140th Infantry Brigade which occupied assault positions previous to an attack, marched back to bivouac in old trenches 1/2 mile NE of FRICOURT.
15th. 6.20 am:
Battalion moved & bivouacked in SE corner of BOIS DE MAMETZ. 140th - 141st Brigades attacked at 6.20 am.
12.00 noon:
Battalion was placed at disposal of BGC. 140th Brigade - a gap having occurred between 140th and 141st Infantry brigades and the former having failed to reach it's final objective. The Battalion is ordered to advance from behind HIGH WOOD and to attack from the Eastern corner of same in a North Easterly direction.
4.45 pm:
Battalion advanced in artillery formation to the attack with a fighting strength of 19 officers and 550 other ranks. Arrangements could not be made for artillery support or adequate covering fire and as the leading platoons came under observation they were subjected to an intense artillery bombardment and later to heavy rifle and machine gun fire. The casualties in this advance amounted to 17 officers and 490 other ranks of whom a large percentage must have been killed by heavy shells.
The remaining 2 officers and a few NCO's & men dug themselves in and held on to what ground they could occupy until the Battalion was ordered to withdraw at 7.30 am, 16th.
16th. 7.30 am:
Battalion withdrew and bivouaced at South East corner of BOIS DE MAMETZ under orders of 142 Brigade. Remaining men of the 4 companies were employed as a burial and carrying party at BAZENTIN LE GRAND. HQ of the Battalion and Waggon lines remained in MAMETZ WOOD until brigade was released on 19th.

Harry's body was not found and he is named on Pier and Face 13 C. of the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

Bradford Daily Telegraph, 12th October 1916, page 3:

Wood, Lance-Cpl, Harry, 38, Balmoral Terrace, Heaton, Newcastle, and eldest surviving son of Mr. Hartley Wood, engineer, Mr. H. Foster Ltd., Denholme Mills, has been killed in action. Lance-Cpl Wood enlisted in the Boxer's Battalion in April, 1915. Prior to enlisting he was well known at the Keighley, Newcastle and London boxing circles. His older brother, the late Rifleman Herbert Wood, of the Rifle Brigade, Petrograd contingent, was killed at Hooge on July 7th, 1915. Both brothers were born at Grunberg, Silesia. Lance-Cpl Wood was 24 years of age, and leaves a widow and son.

Keighley News photograph and report dated 14th October 1916, Page 3/4:

Lance Corporal Harry Wood, of 38, Balmoral Terrace, Heaton, Newcastle, eldest surviving son of Mr. Hartley Wood, engineer to Messrs W & H Foster Ltd, Denholme Mills, was killed in action
on September 15. Lance Corporal Wood joined the Boxers' Battalion (Surrey Rifles) in April 1915, and prior to enlisting was well known in Keighley, Newcastle and London boxing circles.
His older brother, Rifleman Herbert Wood, of the Rifle Brigade (Petrograd Contingent), was killed at Hooge in 1915.
The two brothers were born at Grunberg, Silesia. Lance Corporal Wood was 24 years of age, and leaves a widow and son.
Writing to the Keighley News from Newcastle, Lance Corporal J. H. McKniff refers to the death of Lance Corporal Wood and says: "He had only been out a few months and I thought I could not pay a last tribute better than by letting his many Keighley friends know of his glorious death.
He had been looking forward at the end of the war to another meeting with Tommy Rowan, but he has now been counted out."

Keighlian Magazine obituary:

Lance-Corporal. 6th Surrey Rifles (Boxer's Battalion).
Lance-Corporal Harry Wood left the school in 1907.
He was the brother of Rifleman Herbert Wood, of whom an account is given in the present issue. After leaving School he entered the Engineering Trade with Messrs. Ward and Haggas, Keighley, and during this time was a member of the Territorial Force. At the outbreak of war he was engaged with an Armament Firm in Newcastle, but on the formation of the Boxer's Battalion he went to London and joined them.
For six months he was engaged in Recruiting Work in London, and his genial personality, combined with his prowess in boxing, no doubt would cause him to do great service in bringing in recruits. For Henry Wood both in physique and in manners might have been the prototype of one of Conan Doyle's heroes of the ring, and he entered upon his contests, which he calls "disturbances," with good humour and a desire to be fair.
He went to France in June, 1916, and fell on September 15th, 1916, shot through the head whilst leading his section to the attack.
The following extract is taken from a letter written by his Company Sergeant Major:-
"He was so popular in the Battalion, and he died so magnificently, that I shall personally prize even the small portrait of him. We could so ill afford to lose him, and you know how truly we sympathise with you in his loss. He was so happy at the prospect of having a real go at the Boches, and alas! it ended so tragically.

Post war:

Locally he is named on the Keighlian Magazine roll of honour for the Keighley Boy's Grammar School. He is also named along with his brother Herbert on the Denholme War Memorial in Foster Park at Denholme which lists the names of 55 local men from the Great War, 1914 - 1918 and five men from World War Two, 1939 - 1945.
He is named in the Keighlian Magazine roll of honour for Keighley By's Grammar School.

After the war, his wife Annie Wood gave her home address as 38, Balmoral Street in Newcastle.

Annie would have also received Harry's outstanding Army pay which was just 11 pence. She received a more substantial amount of the war gratuity of £5 on 6th January 1920.
She was awarded a dependants pension for herself and their son Henry, of 18 shillings and 9 pence per week, with effect from 9th April 1917.

In the 1921 census Annie and Henry were boarding with Alice O'Neill at 38, Balmoral Terrace, in Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland.
Alice was a cashier, employed by Robert Authers Theatre Company Ltd.

Harry was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service.
These were sent to his wife Annie in February 1922 and she would probably have received the Bronze war memorial plaque and a King's certificate inscribed with his name.

Information sources:

Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths From British Consulates, 1810-1968
1911 England Census
England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915
Henry Wood in the England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920
British Army World War I Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War
Keighley News archives at Keighley Library
Keighlian Magazine
1921 Census Of England & Wales
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007

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