Harry Eyre

gloucestershire regiment badgePrivate 37139, 8th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, (formerly 2358 1/5th (Territorial) Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment), died as POW, 19th September 1918, aged 26.

Born at Ashby in 1892, Harry was one of seven children of John William and Emma Eyre (nee Drury). His mother was from Howden and his father, a miner in the Scunthorpe ironstone mines, from Crowle. His father died in the late 1890’s and Emma had moved the family back to Crowle by 1901 where they lived on Fieldside and she worked as a charwoman. In 1911 Harry was still living at home and working as a railway porter. Presumably on the Axholme Joint Railway?

Harry attended Crowle Council Boys School and was one of the four former school friends who died in the Great War, along with Fred Hill, Arthur Oxenforth and Percy Walton, to have been awarded a good attendance medal from the school in 1906.

According to his army number Harry enlisted in the Lincolnshire Regiment at Scunthorpe in August 1914 and served with the 5th, later the 1/5th (Territorial) Battalion. They landed in France on 1st March 1915 although there is no note on his medal card to say if he was with them.

At some point Harry transferred from the Lincoln’s to the Gloucestershire Regiment. In March 1918 he was with the 8th Gloucester’s on the Somme when the German army launched its Spring Offensive and suffered heavy casualties at the Battle of St Quentin. As a result the had been transferred north and on 9th April were defending Messines when the German’s launched Operation Georgette across the River Lys. As at St Quentin the German’s gained a quick early success against surprised British forces, made easier by the light defences due to troops being sent south to defend the Somme. By 10th April the German’s had advanced to Messines and although the Gloucester’s and other troops put up a stiff resistance against superior numbers the town fell the next day. In the Battle of Messines the 8th Gloucester’s lost a substantial number of men, many of whom were captured and taken as prisoners, including Harry Eyre.

During the war the German forces captured almost 300,000 Commonwealth servicemen on the Western Front and held them in camps either in Germany or in German occupied territory in France and Belgium. There were certain international conventions that governed the treatment of prisoners of war but despite these conditions in German camps varied widely and as many as 12,000 Commonwealth servicemen died in captivity. One ex prisoner described life in his camp the “grub was absolutely rotten and meals were often missed”. Disease and illness were rife, especially in the later months of 1918 when the influenza epidemic broke out.

Harry was held initially at Dulmen POW Camp, from where in June he was able to send his parents a postcard. Suffering an illness there he was transferred to the Fortress Hospital in Metz in August. Here on 19th September 1918, Harry Eyre died from a cerebral haemorrhage. He is buried in what is now Chambieres French National Cemetery.

A memorial service was held for Harry at the Methodist Chapel in January 1919 and he is remembered on the plaque to former members of the congregation and Sunday School.

harry eyre red cross pow cad

Red Cross POW index card for Harry Eyre. The International Red Cross kept records of prisoners and notified their families of their welfare