Harry Steele Gething
Date of birth: 29.4.1894
Date of death: 3.10.1918
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Son of Caleb and Lucy Gething
Service number: 15616
When war was declared in August 1914, Harry was employed at Wrenthorpe Colliery as a coal miner hewer. He enlisted at Wakefield as Private 15616 in the 2nd Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He served in France with the medal rolls index card indicating he arrived in France on 22nd July 1915 and was awarded the 14/15 Star as well as the British War Medal and Victory Medal. He may have been drafted as part of the 7th KOYLI, which went to France around this time, however Harry Steele Gething was eventually posted to the 2nd KOYLI.
The 2nd KOYLI had been in France since 16th August 1914 and had been involved in many battles, including the defence of Le Cateau and the subsequent withdrawal to the Marne. Also at the second Battle of Ypres and though present in the trenches, was not involved in any attacks during the battle of Loos, of September 1915.
In the spring of 1916 the battalion, now part of 97th Infantry Brigade, 32nd Division, moved to the trenches by the River Ancre, in readiness for deployment on the Somme. The Battle of the Somme commenced at 07.30 hours on the 1st July 1916. The 2nd KOYLI incurred 340 casualties in the first two days of the fighting around Thiepval. After rest and re-organisation, the 97th Brigade returned to the Somme in November 1916, during the Battle of Ancre. At dawn on 18th November, the 2nd KOYLI was on the left of the Brigade’s assault towards Munich Trench and Ten Tree Alley. On being relieved the following day the battalion had incurred 365 casualties.
In July 1917 the 2nd KOYLI moved to the Dunkerque area, for a period of coastal defence. The battalion was deployed to rotational tours of the trenches in the town of Nieuport, a town under constant bombardment. In late November 1917 the 2nd KOYLI was in the line at Passchendaele, during the Third Battle of Ypres.
On the 21st March 1918, when the German Army launched its offensive towards Amiens, the 2nd KOYLI was in camp on the Yser Canal. The 97th Infantry Brigade was immediately moved south to support the Third Army, which was under attack. The 2nd KOYLI was deployed in support of a Guards Brigade, east of Adinfer Wood. It was in this area that the battalion was subjected to gas attacks, which caused numerous casualties.
On the 10th August 1918 the 2nd KOYLI was deployed in the line east of Beaufort and later played their part in attacks north of Luce, during the Battle of Amiens. On 3rd September 1918, the 2nd KOYLI took over an outpost line in front of the village of Misery and two days later crossed the River Somme. The following days saw the Allied advance continue.
The Battle of St Quentin Canal began on 29th September 1918, after three days of intense artillery bombardment, with the aim of breaking through the main Hindenburg position between St Quentin and Verdhuille using combined British, Australian and American forces. The 32nd Division passed through the line during the afternoon, forcing the enemy back to the Beaurevoir Line, their last line of defence. At 06.05 hours on Thursday 3rd October, the attack on the Beaurevoir Line began, with infantry, supported by tanks and artillery, attacking on a 10,000 yard front. This attack met severe resistance but by nightfall an advance of 2,000 yards had been achieved. The war diary records that on 3rd October they were outside Sequehart and as they moved into the village it was very open so “a good many casualties were suffered during the day from sniping, chiefly by field guns”. On that day the battalion lost 2 officers and 16 other ranks. Harry was recorded as killed in action on 3rd October 1918, his medal roll index card says simply “missing” and his effects went to his father Caleb. Harry is remembered on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial, France. The memorial was erected to remember the 9,813 men who died during the advance to victory and have no known grave. Harry Steele Gething is not remembered on the Outwood Memorials, but his name is included on both the Wrenthorpe Colliery War Memorial and the St Anne’s Church Memorial, Kirkhamgate.
Harry’s older brother Thomas Steele Gething also served in WW1 in the Labour Corps. He enlisted on 29th May 1917 aged 30 years 3 months despite an artificial left eye. He was gassed in August 1918 but returned to duty and was eventually discharged in 1919.
Born on 29th April 1894, Harry was the child of Caleb and Lucy Gething of Bolus Lane, Outwood and was baptised at St Mary Magdalene, Outwood on 18th September 1895. Caleb was a miner who had been born in Cassop, Durham, but had come to Yorkshire in the 1870’s. His mother Lucy was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Steel of Outwood. Caleb and Lucy lived in Outwood for some time, before moving with their two children to Castleford where they lived at High Oxford Street. Soon after the birth of their third child the family returned to Outwood, living at Bolus Lane, where Harry was born. In 1901 they were living on Leeds Road. Harry had three brothers Thomas Steele (b1887), Charles (b1891) and James Steele (b1896) and a sister Martha Elizabeth (b1889). The name Steele was Lucy’s maiden name, although when she married Caleb she had already been married and widowed and was called Poskett (despite being recorded on the certificate as a spinster!).
By 1911 they were living at 14 George Street and three sons were still at home – all coal miners – Thomas and Martha had married and left home.