Harry Bromley's Story.
Harry Bromley Bailey was baptised on 24 August 1884 at St Michael’s Church, Macclesfield, the son of Margaret and John Henry Bailey, a stonemason of Macclesfield. In 1891, six-year-old Harry was living at 28 Rodney St, Macclesfield with his parents, siblings John Fred (8), Edna (4) and Colin (1), and a widowed lodger, James Bailey, a silk weaver aged 62.
By 1901, the family had moved to 109 Chatham Street, Edgeley, Stockport; Harry, then aged sixteen and working as an apprentice stonemason, was living here with his parents and siblings John (18, apprentice stonemason), Edna (14, winder in a cotton mill), Colin (11), Valentine (9), Archie (7), Florence (4) and Maggie (2). It’s likely that John and Harry were apprenticed to their father and worked with him.
Harry’s father, John Henry Bailey, died on 25 December 1903 and was buried in Cheadle (Park Road) Cemetery, Park Road, Cheadle. Harry’s mother Margaret, who died on 31 December 1956 and is buried with her husband, lived to be 101 years of age. Remembered on the same memorial are Harry’s sisters Maggie (died in 1941, aged 42), Florence (died in 1980, aged 83) and Gertrude (died in 1987, aged 85).
Harry married Esther Elizabeth Shelmerdine on 12 May 1906 at All Saints Church, Heaton Norris. The couple had two sons: Cyril (born in 1907), and Harry (born in 1909), and in 1911 the family was living at 91 Vienna Road, Edgeley. Harry was employed as a stonemason by Mr Symonds, a builder of Castle Street, Stockport.
Esther died in 1913, and in the second quarter of 1915, soon after he enlisted, Harry married Edith May Tyrer. At the time of Harry’s death in 1917, Edith was living at 4 Rae St, Edgeley, Stockport; she never remarried and remained in the same house until her death in 1942.
Like his four brothers, Harry served with the Royal Engineers, enlisting in Stockport on 24th March 1915. The 432nd Field Company of the Royal Engineers was a Territorial Force which was allocated to the 66th (2nd East Lancs) Division. This division received orders for embarkation for France on 11 February 1917.
According to the company war diary, the company left Southampton at 5.15pm on 1 March 1917, arriving at Le Havre at 3.30am the next day. The men disembarked at 7am, and on 3 March travelled by train to Berguette, a journey of more than 24 hours, from where they marched until they arrived at billets in Lambres. The 5 March was spent as follows: Sappers – overhauling & re-packing wagons, inspection of rifles, kit, feet and general fatigues; Drivers (of horses) – stable routine, exercise of horses, cleaning saddlery & harness, inspection of rifles, kit and feet.
By 1 July 1917 the company was based in Oost Dunkerke and commenced work on advanced billets at Nieuwpoort. The war diary notes on 6 July 1917:
Heavy shelling round Sardinerie [the sardine factory]; 4 men killed and 3 wounded by one shell. It appears that the work may have been observed & so it will be carried out at night in future…
Harry Bailey’s death was reported in the Macclesfield Advertiser on 21 September 1917:
SAPPER H BROMLEY BAILEY, OF STOCKPORT (KILLED)
Mrs Bailey, of 4 Rae St, Edgeley, Stockport, has received the sad news from the War Office that her husband, Sapper Harry Bromley Bailey, of the Royal Engineers, was killed in action on July 6th. He was 33 years of age, and enlisted on March 24th, 1915, prior to which he was in the employ of Mr Symonds, builder, of Castle St. Writing to Mrs Bailey, who is left with two children, Lieut. Norman Newton says: “Sapper Bailey was a willing and trusted worker under trying conditions, and as an officer I cannot say more of any man. He died very shortly after receiving his wounds, which were caused by the explosion of a shell, and he was later buried in a graveyard by a British chaplain.”
Announcements of Harry’s death were placed by his family in the Stockport County Borough Express newspaper on 6 September 1917. These announcements were printed on a memorial card produced by the family.
Sapper Harry Bailey was originally buried in Nieuwpoort Military Cemetery in Belgium, a French cemetery in which 107 British soldiers and one sailor were buried. After the Armistice, the British bodies from this and other nearby cemeteries and burial grounds were moved and reburied in Ramscappelle Road Military Cemetery, 2 Km east of Nieuwpoort.
Sapper Harry Bailey is buried in Grave Ref. V. A. 1. His widow asked for the words “FAITHFUL IN SERVICE” to be inscribed on his headstone.
Locally, Sapper Harry Bailey is commemorated on St Matthew’s Church, Edgeley war memorial, and on panel 6 of the Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery. He may be the Harry Bailey listed on the Macclesfield Christ Church School war memorial.
He is also named on the East Lancashire Royal Engineers HQ memorial which was originally at Stretford but has since moved (with the Royal Engineers HQ) to Failsworth.
Brother of John Fred Bailey, who served as Sapper 179817 with the Royal Engineers; Colin Bailey, who served as Sapper 18888 with the 17th Field Company of the Royal Engineers; Valentine Bailey, who served as Sapper 269535 – later as WR-25888 (Waterways & Railways) – with the Royal Engineers; and Archie Bailey, who served as Driver 442641 with the Royal Engineers, and also served for a time as Driver 4079 with the Cheshire Regiment. All survived the war.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births, Marriages, Deaths
Cheshire Parish Baptism Registers (Find My Past): St Michael’s Church, Macclesfield
Manchester Parish Marriage Registers (Ancestry): All Saints Church, Heaton Norris
BillionGraves.com: records for Cheadle Park Road Cemetery
Census (England & Wales): 1891, 1901, 1911
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
Soldiers Died in the Great War (Find My Past)
War Diary – 432nd Field Coy. Royal Engineers (Ancestry)
British Army Medal Index Cards (Ancestry)
Macclesfield Advertiser: 21 September 1917
Photo: with thanks to the family of Harry Bromley Bailey
Research by Rosie Rowley, Macclesfield.