1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

Harold Harper

Contributed by: Helen Warhurst, on 2008-11-06

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First Name Harold
Surname Harper
Year of Birth 1891
Year of Death 1973
Regiment Royal Norfolk Regiment
Place of Wartime Residence Thetford, Cheshire

Harold's Story

My family always thought that my Great Grandfather had bad feet from being in the trenches in France during the WW1. It was only when I found details of his War Pension Record on-line, that we discovered he had fought on a different front entirely.

Trench foot gave him bad feet for life, but not from France

He was a butcher in Chester when he joined up in January 1915, joining the Norfolk Regiment based in Thetford. He was sent to Alexandria, and spent time in Mudros, Salonika and Cairo. He was hospitalized twice, once with severe dehydration due to diarrhoea, and the second time due to malaria. Upon discharge from the army in July 1919, he was given a disability pension for 6 months due to the malaria.

He died the year before I was born, so I never got a chance to ask him myself what it was like to be at war, and my family said he never talked about it to them. All they knew was that he had bad feet for the rest of his life, as a result of trench foot, and they had all assumed this was from the trenches in France.

I read up about the conditions endured by the men in the Greek and Turkish theatres, including the Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns, and it is no wonder that Harold didn't want to talk about it. It sounds like life in the trenches was miserable and dangerous, and many of the campaigns seemed to have enormous loss of life for no gain. Conditions were terrible - sickness was endemic, due to the heat and the flies. In Gallipoli 213000 British men died, over half of them due to sickness such as dysentery, diarrhoea and enteric fever.

I guess Harold hoped, as everyone else did, that this really would be the war to end all wars, so when his son-in-law, my Grandfather Harry, ended up in the same theatre in WW2, Harold didn't discuss it with him.

I am so grateful to the generations who laid down their lives so that our generation could be free. Those who survived the First World War are now becoming ever fewer, but we must always remember our debt to them, lest we forget the horrors that war brings.

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