Pte. Harry Bradford (1880 – 1918)
Harry Bradford was born in Platt during 1880 and was one of seven children to a tile maker named Owen and his wife Philadelphia Brand. At the time of Harry’s birth his parents were living at Holly Mount, near the Brickfields, and it is assumed his father worked there.
By 1891 the family had moved to Black Horse Lane in Borough Green (modern day Crouch Lane) and it is very likely that Harry and his siblings all attended Platt School.
Harry followed his father into the tile making business and was enumerated in the 1901 census as residing at a property on the Godstone Road (modern day Maidstone Road) in Platt, however by 1911 he had left home and was living with his elder brother George and his family in Erith. Both brothers were employed as brickmakers and on the eve of war with Germany breaking out Harry married Sarah Coshall in Erith, with a daughter named Doris Sarah Rose being born almost two years later on 9 April 1916.
Harry was conscripted into the Army on 24 June 1916 and subsequently called up for service on 18 October. He was posted to the 7th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment and in a medical examination, which took place at Woolwich, Harry was recorded as being 5’ 6” in height, weighing 140lbs and having good physical development. He was noted to be suffering from a slight hernia, however it was not bad enough to warrant him as being ‘defective.’
The day after attesting 7385 Pte. H Bradford was sent to Guildford where he was assigned to the 100th Provisional Battalion, The London Regiment, a unit that had been formed in June 1915 from home service personnel that eventually became the 29th Battalion, The London Regiment on 1 January 1917.
Harry spent much of 1917 based in the UK and was drafted overseas on 21 December where he joined the 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers on arrival at the Infantry Base Depot in Etaples, however within a week he was transferred to the 6th Battalion, Welsh Regiment. The 6th were a pioneer battalion and part of the 1st Division that had moved to billets in Boesinghe (north of Ypres) during December. Harry arrived with his new unit on 18 January 1918 along with a draft of 49 other men who had been classified B1 (meaning they were able to march five miles, see to shoot with glasses, and hear well.)
On 11 February the battalion moved by road to ‘Turco Huts’, which was east of the canal near Pilckem, and tasked with road and trench-board track maintenance, construction and erection of camouflage screening, constructing new pill-boxes as well as adapting old German ones in the battle zone. They were also engaged with digging trenches and constructing breastworks under the direction of a company of Royal Engineers.
In early March Harry moved to Béthune where his battalion were billeted in the orphanage and ordered to construct a new army line north-east of the town that ran in front of the dock and astride the canal. On completion the 6th were then posted to Beuvry and began wiring along the front line at night and fixing pontoon bridges across the canal by day. The Germans were about to begin their ‘spring offensive’ and on 18 March two companies from the battalion were caught in the preliminary artillery bombardment and experienced great difficulty in returning to their base, resulting in several casualties recorded in the battalion War Diary. Six days later the 6th moved southeast of Béthune to Sailly Labourse where they resumed digging trenches and wiring the front lines.
Towards the end of August the battalion was sent to Arras, where they had been ordered to participate in operations commencing at the start of September in the St. Quentin region. During the month battalion casualties numbered six men killed and 41 wounded. The Germans had begun their retreat, and the Allies pushed forward in pursuit. The pioneers provided invaluable support to the attacking infantry and were on occasion called upon to engage the enemy themselves. All companies were employed in the repair of forward roads and tracks, working as far forward as possible during the day without direct observation.
In November 1918 Harry was billeted northeast of Bohain at La Vallée-Mulâtre and employed in salvaging war material and the unpleasant task of burying the dead. Following the Armistice the battalion received news that they would be moving into Germany and acting as an advance guard to the division.
On the 27th Harry’s unit had reached the Ardennes and eventually crossed into Germany on 16 December. Two days after Christmas Harry was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia. He was sent to No.3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station, which was billeted in the Deaf and Dumb Institution at Euskirchen, a town about 20 kilometres south east of Cologne.
Harry tragically died on 29 December aged 38 years, and was buried in Cologne Cemetery South. He was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory Medals.