Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Lance-Corporal William Harfield

Lance Corporal William Harfield [Z1516/4]

Thursday 29th  October 1914; Mrs Evelyn Harfield of Hope Villa, Gardenia Avenue, Leagrave, has received news that her husband, Lance-Corporal William Harfield has died of wounds received during the Battle of Mons. William Harfield was born near Chichester in Sussex and joined the army as a boy soldier. He served for fourteen years with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, including six years in India. In 1910 he left the regular army and subsequently came to Luton, where he worked as a beltman at Vauxhall Motors. During his time in the Royal Fusiliers he had been a bandsman for his battalion. Since moving to Luton he had helped the band of the 5th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment by playing the trombone, but he had been excused camp this year. 

On August 5th Lance-Corporal Harfield was called up as a Reservist. His old battalion was serving in Ireland and he was transferred to the 4th Battalion which left for the front almost immediately. Mrs Harfield was able to find out more information about her husband’s death from another Royal Fusiliers reservist from Luton, Mr George T.Denmark, who was also wounded and is now in a local hospital. Mr Denmark had been in the same hospital ward as William Harfield at Vailly and reported that his friend had suffered terrible injuries, including the loss of both his legs. As well as his widow William Harfield leaves two small children, William who is five and two year old Evelyn, and an aged father who had been living with the family for some time.

Source: Luton News 5 November 1914

Note: William Harfield’s father Robert died aged 76 in the spring of 1916. In 1911 the Irish census shows William, Evelyn and their young son William living in Dublin, with his occupation still listed as “soldier”. It appears they must have come to Luton soon after this, living for a time at Ramridge Road, Round Green before moving to Leagrave. George Denmark appears to have survived the war. He served in the Essex Regiment, the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Labour Corps as well as the Royal Fusiliers. His medal card lists the date at which he first served at the Front as 21 August 1914, making him one of the few among the British Expeditionary Force of 1914 to beat the odds and survive the war.

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