Harold Brown is another relative of Arthur Bell who served in the Manchester Regiment – albeit an enthusiastic but somewhat limited service. In this case Harold was Arthur’s future brother in law and my late great uncle. Harold is an example of an underage recruit.
Harold Brown’s son, Kenneth, has provided a copy of Harold’s journal to his cousin – my father. The journal provides some amusing anecdotes and commentary on my Grandmother’s childhood. Harold had been born in 1901 and grew up with three sisters and his widowed mother, Lydia Brown. The family lived at 13 Heywood Street, Moss Side.
At the outbreak of the war in 1914, Harold had just left school and was employed as an insurance clerk. The minimum age for overseas service was 19 years, although many younger ‘boys’ had slipped through the net. For example, records have been identified for Edward Barnett, who enlisted in the 19th Battalion, aged thirteen. Edward served overseas with the 20th Battalion and was discharged in May 1916 aged fourteen.
Aged fifteen and a half, Harold may have seen pomp of the Pals Battalions’ parade through the City in May 1915. He was also lured by the recruitment posts – Your Country Needs You – and decided to enlist to “…give Kitchener a bit of a lift!”
A number of recruiting Sergeants rejected Harold’s enlistment. Like many other enthusiastic men who were under age – or failed to meet health or size requirements – Harold found the route to enlistment easier with the Territorial Battalions. He was recruited into the 6th Territorial Battalion, Manchester Regiment. Records show he embodied on 4/10/1915.
Harold’s mother, Lydia disputed her son’s sense of duty, but he averted her plans to have him removed from the Army and continued his service. Harold quickly grew up during his training in Southport and was taken under the wing of some former miners. The Battalion was later transferred to Codford on Salisbury Plain.
During a night exercise on Salisbury Plain, Harold was sent to find a senior NCO. He accidentally fell in a trench and knocked himself out for a time. On reporting to the Medical Officer, the game was up. Within a fortnight, he found himself back on civy street – presumably with a very relieved mother. Lydia Atherton Brown and her family lived at 13 Heywood Street, Moss Side. Harold’s Pension record shows he was discharged from 3/6th Battalion for having made a misstatement as to age on 13/3/1916 at Codford. He was aged 15 years 11 months.
Harold’s sister, Alice married Arthur Bell in 1928. The Brown and Bell family’s grew together as firm friends. Harold returned to work at the Co-Op.
The 6th Battalion fought bravely in Gallipoli, Egypt and the Western Front. CWGC records indicate 911 men lost their lives during the war.