Oldham Historical Research Group


 WW1 serviceman

Private Harry Lee, RAMC, 34166
Also served with the Warwickshire Regt., (39676),   (the Cheshire Regt., (76117)
and the Essex Regt. (56262)

Harry was born on 13 August 1893 (125 years ago today, whilst writing this account) and baptised on 24 Sept 1893 at The Gospel Union Mission in St Domingo St!

His mother Mary Jane (née Elsby), was widowed just over a year later, when Harry's father (Arthur) died in Oldham on 29 November 1894.

His mother remarried twice, the first time to John Samuel Bilton in 1898, who subsequently died in 1907. The second time was to Harry Lawton, in 1910, who already had sons of his own.
(See 1901 and 1911 census returns below)

Harry's father, Arthur (1872-1894), was a mule minder - born in Oldham, with ancestors on his father's side going right back to the 1700s with certainty. Harry's mother Mary Jane, née Elsby (1872-1942), was born in Ireland, the daughter of a soldier from Cheshire and his wife, who was from Lincolnshire. Her family moved to Oldham after her father's death in 1883 and she married Arthur in 1892 at St.Paul's, in Oldham.

When Harry was just over a year old his father Arthur died of tuberculosis, which he'd had for a year (referencing Arthur's death certificate). I remember a story about him almost dying from pneumonia contracted while raising money for strikers. I wonder if he had been on strike in 1892 and contracted it then?

Harry also had TB when he was young, even spending time in a sanitorium in Ireland. He lost function of part of his lung (or did he have a part removed - I remember him telling me, but can't remember now exactly what he said) and was encouraged to swim to build his lung capacity. He became a strong swimmer and clearly fit enough to serve during the war. He used his skill swimming to his advantage - winning bets when he swam in the Suez!

Harry joined up on 12 Sept 1914 and was sent to Egypt. He served in Africa and I remember him telling me about having a chameleon as a pet to catch mosquitoes. If it was to prevent malaria, it didn't work! Grand-dad had 'blackwater fever' and after the war sometimes suffered from the recurrance of malarial symptoms. After he died, I went with my mum to clear his home. Among his keepsakes we found the skeletal remains of his chameleon.

Harry returned from the war, unlike his brother Arthur (page HERE). He worked as a millwright and married a local girl, Florrie Oakes, in 1922. They lived in Lees and had 2 children.

During the depression he found work hard to come by and, after a time owning a shop in Henshaw St., the family moved to Radcliffe and then to Coventry, where he found work in the car factories there.

Harry died 17th September 1982 in Coventry, survived by his daughter, son and 4 granddaughers.

1901 Census
1901 Census

1911 Census
1911 Census

Medal Rolls Index Card
Medal Rolls Index Card

Certificate of Transfer to Reserve on Demobilisation
Certificate of Transfer
to Reserve on Demobilisation

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Photo & information contributed by : Isobel Hoy

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