Date of birth: 1890
Date of death: 20.8.1916
Regiment: West Yorkshire
Family information: Son of Joseph Saville Ramsden and Sarah Jane Ramsden
Service number: 15/1102
Harold enlisted at Colsterdale with the 15th Battalion of The Prince of Wales’s Own West Yorks Regiment, otherwise known as “The Leeds Pals”, as Private 15/1102. Land at Colsterdale that had been previously earmarked for the building of a new reservoir had been taken over by the 15th Battalion at the beginning of the war until late June 1915 when they moved to Ripon to meet up with the Bradford Pals and 18th DLI for training until their journey abroad began.
The Medal Rolls Index Card shows he served in Egypt from 22nd December 1915. He had left Liverpool on 7th December on “The Empress of Britain”, a converted liner, with his battalion and they had a fairly eventful journey to Egypt. Firstly they managed to collide with a French mail ship and had to call in at Valleta, Malta for repairs and then narrowly escaped from an enemy submarine before they arrived in Port Said on 21st December, disembarking the following day.
The 15th Battalion were there to defend the Suez Canal, but by late February 1916 the threat had decreased so they were moved to France in March 1916, where Harold was one of the few survivors of the first day of the Battle of the Somme – 1st July. The day was disastrous with the war diary reporting that despite the heavy barrage prior to going over the top “when the advance was made the enemy front line was thick with men” and that “Large numbers of our men were casualties long before reaching the German wire.” At the end of that day they had lost 24 officers and 504 ordinary soldiers.
On 20th August – the day Harold was killed – the battalion was in the front-line trenches in the Festubert sector. The Germans launched an intense bombardment on the front line “with varying violence throughout the day.” At 9.50pm the enemy “attempted to raid our trenches but failed to get in”. One officer and 6 other rank soldiers had been killed.
Harold is buried in Le Touret Military Cemetery at Richebourg-L’Avoue, France. He was awarded the 14/15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is also commemorated on the War Memorial at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield and the Kirkhamgate War Memorial.
While his parents eventually moved to Scarborough, Vine Cottage and the smallholding around it passed to the next generation and are still in the same family today.
The Wakefield Express told of his passing:
“OLD WAKEFIELD GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOY KILLED
Private Harold Ramsden (Leeds Pals), youngest son of Mr and Mrs J Saville Ramsden, Brandy Carr near Wakefield was killed in action on 20 August. Deceased was 26 years of age and joined the colours in December 1914. He was educated at the Wakefield Grammar School.”
The School magazine “The Savilian” of the Michaelmas Term 1916 reported his death:
“HAROLD RAMDSEN – 1901 -04 Private, 8th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, was killed in France August 19th 1916. Harold Ramsden was a type of schoolboy often met with in schools of our kind. Quiet, unassuming, with a deep sense of duty, it seems very sad that we shall not see many of these boys again. The country is poorer for the loss.”
Harold’s effects were left to his father Joseph Saville Ramsden.
Harold’s older sister Gertrude was also at the front in a nursing role. She was later presented to the King as reported by the Wakefield Express.
“DECORATION FOR A WAKEFIELD SISTER
Nursing sister Miss G Ramsden, daughter of Mr and Mrs J Saville Ramsden of Brandycar, near Wakefield and of Deganwy North Wales had been decorated by the King with the Royal Red Cross at Buckingham Palace for valuable services rendered and was afterwards presented to Queen Alexandra at Marlborough House. Miss Ramsden has served at Base and Casualty Clearing Hospitals in France for over two years.”
Gertrude was serving with the Canadian Nursing Service and was based at the Number 12 Canadian General Hospital, Bramshott Hants when not serving at the front.
Harold was the son of Joseph Saville Ramsden a market gardener and Sarah Jane of Vine Cottage, Brandy Carr Road, Kirkhamgate. He was born in 1890, being baptised at St Anne’s Wrenthorpe on 27th April 1890.
In 1891 he was living on Brandy Carr with his parents and older siblings – Mary E (b 1880), Gertrude (b 1881), Saville Helm (b 1882), Florence (b 1883) and Ada Louisa (b 1888).
By the time of the 1901 census only Mary, Saville, Ada and Harold remained at Vine Cottage with their parents. Saville was working on his father’s market garden.
Harold was educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield, but by 1911 he had joined Saville working as a market gardener for his father at Vine Cottage. Ada was also still at home with her parents. The census records that Joseph and Sarah had produced 7 children, one of whom had already died. Gertrude and Florence were both nursing and were living in Old Trafford, Manchester.