The Story of Corporal Harry Gibbons

The Story of Corporal Harry Gibbons

Harry Gibbons was born in Wickham Bishops, Essex, in 1894. 17 years later, we know he was living in the village of Steppingley, near Woburn, with his parents, and his father was employed as a Gamekeeper on the Woburn Estate. After his schooling, Harry began working alongside his father as an Under keeper for game and fish.

On the 10th of November 1914, records in the Bedford Estates Archive show that the 19 year old Harry voluntarily enlisted as a Lance Corporal at the Duke of Bedford’s Training Depot in Ampthill. Harry was assigned to Number  1 Company at the camp and his daily routine consisted of rifle practice, bayonet fencing, route marches, entrenching, rifle drill and parades.

Harry was at the Training Depot for nearly seven months until, on the 9th of June 1915, he was posted to the 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment in France, as Private 17743 Gibbons. Whilst with this Battalion he was admitted to hospital twice. The first time Harry was suffering with bronchitis and was admitted into hospital at Etretat until he recovered. He then received a gunshot wound to the back on the 3rd of September 1916 and was sent to a hospital in Boulogne. At some point between June 1915 and 1918, Harry was promoted to Corporal, however we do not know exactly when.

Image for The Story of Corporal Harry Gibbons Harry Gibbons' name is inscribed on the memorial in Ampthill Park.

On his return from hospital, he was transferred to the 4th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment. Harry went into battle at Moeuvres, France, during the Hundred Day Offensive in 1918. On the 27th of September they made advances towards the Hindenburg support Line - the last major defensive position taken up by the German Army in the war. In capturing their objective Corporal Gibbons was killed.

Wounded Returns were sent back to Eastern Command at Warley, Essex, and then sent out to the depots. They included the name of every man who was wounded, sick or killed in action. This was how the message of Harry Gibbons death reached the Ampthill Depot.

Corporal Gibbons is remembered with honour in the Moeuvres Communal Cemetery in France. He is also remembered on a plaque in the Church of St Lawrence, Steppingley, and listed on the Duke of Bedford Memorial in Ampthill Park the location of the Bedfordshire Training Depot.

 

Pippa Gardner

Woburn Abbey Marketing Executive