August 17, 1915 – Lady Luck’s fickle finger

How cruel is fate? The August 17, 1915, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser reports on the deaths of three soldiers who all died in peculiar circumstances.

Private C Clements, a former Harborough man, was killed just moments after returning to the Gallipoli frontline following a spell in hospital for a bayonet wound.

During a ‘gallant charge on a Turkish position’ Private Clements was bayoneted in the foot but made a ‘splendid recovery’ after treatment in a hospital in Alexandria and was able to return to the fighting line.

“All the boys were just greeting him on his return from hospital when a Turkish shell dropped in the trench and killed him,” says the report.

Private Clements, who leaves a wife and child, had been living in Manchester but had previously worked at Harborough Rubber and had lived in School Lane, Market Harborough.

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Another Harborough soldier, who was only 18, has died of wounds received in action. Private Bernard Carroll, a member of the Market Harborough Company of Territorials, was the only one of a group of men to be seriously wounded when they came under machine gun fire.

The platoon commander, in a letter to Private Carroll’s parents who live in Logan Street, says: “He was carrying rations to the trenches when the party came under fire of an enemy’s maxim. Several other fellows in the platoon were hit, mostly slightly.”

It appears that Private Carroll’s decision to attempt to pick up some of the ration bags which had been thrown down was the fateful action that led to him being shot in the stomach.

Private Carroll was formerly an altar boy at the town’s Catholic Church.

The newspaper reports on the death of a third Harborough soldier – who died of appendicitis.

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Lance-Corporal C Jennings, who leaves a wife and a six-month-old baby in their matrimonial home in Clarence Street, was being treated in a French hospital when he died.

The 23-year-old, who was a prominent member of the Market Harborough Parish Church Choir and a former employee at the Hosiery Factory, had actually been operated on for appendicitis at Leicester Royal Infirmary just a few months before. Once he recovered he went to France but had only been there for two months.

The newspaper says: “Although he did not fall on the field of battle, Lance-Corporal Jennings died a soldier’s death for he gave his life while serving his country.”

There is also news of two other Harborough soldiers being wounded in action.

Private Ernest Flude of East Street has received ‘a slight wound to the left knee’.

He says: “I don’t think I shall be sent to England with it. We have been having some awful times with the Germans lately. They have even tried to set fire to us in the trenches.”

And Private G Cotton, whose parents live in Hearth Street, has been wounded in the shoulder and leg. However, he seems upbeat. “I had some narrow shaves last time in, but a miss is as good as a mile, so all’s well that ends well.”

  • Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.
  • My fellow researcher and De Montfort University colleague David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.
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