Pte Harry Bradford (1880 – 1918)

Harry Bradford was born in Platt during 1880 one of seven children of a tile maker named Owen and his wife, Philadelphia (née Brand.) At the time of Harry’s birth his parents were living at Holly Mount, near the Brickfields, and his father probably worked in the brickworks.

By 1891 the family had moved to Black Horse Lane in Borough Green (modern-day Crouch Lane) with Harry and his siblings all attending Platt School. When old enough he followed his father into the tile making business and was enumerated in the 1901 census as residing at a property on the Godstone Road (now 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 worked as brickmakers, and on the eve of war 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 when he was assigned to the 7th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment. 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 deemed ‘defective.’

The following day Harry was sent to Guildford where he joined the 100th Provisional Battalion, The London Regiment, which was a unit formed in June 1915 from home service personnel that would eventually become the 29th Battalion, The London Regiment on 1 January 1917.

Harry spent much of 1917 based in the UK and was posted to France on 21 December where on arrival 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 which was a pioneer battalion forming 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 also classified B1 which meant 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 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 battalion moved to Beuvry and began wiring along the front line at night, and fixing pontoon bridges across the canal by day. All along the front, the Germans were known to be preparing for a big ‘spring offensive’ and on 18 March two companies from the battalion were caught in the preliminary artillery bombardment at the cost of several casualties. Six days later Harry’s unit moved southeast of Béthune to Sailly Labourse, where they resumed digging trenches and wiring the front lines.

Towards the end of August, the Pioneers were sent to Arras, where they had been ordered to participate in operations commencing at the start of September in the St. Quentin region. By then 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.

By the start of November, Harry was billeted northeast of Bohain at La Vallée-Mulâtre where in addition to salvaging war material he would have also been engaged in 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, and reached the Ardennes on 27 November – eventually crossing 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 situated in the town of Euskirchen at the Deaf and Dumb Institution at Euskirchen, and died there on 29 December. He was 38-years-old and is buried in Cologne Cemetery South.