Date of birth: 1894
Date of death: 18.11.1916
Area: Outwood, Wakefield
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Son of Fenton and Annie Summerscales
Service number: 21746
Harry Summerscales enlisted in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and was posted to the 2nd Battalion in Belgium. Private Summerscales landed in France on the 19th June 1915 and joined the battalion in the Ypres Salient.
The 2nd Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry disembarked at Le Havre on 16th August 1914 and moved into Belgium. The battalion was part of the 13th Brigade, 5th Division of the British Expeditionary Force. By the 22nd August they had established their positions alongside the Mons-Conde Canal. On the 24th August the German Army attacked in great strength and forced the BEF to make a series of withdrawals. First to Le Cateau, then south across the Rivers Aisne and Marne, before the German assault was brought to a halt. During the battle at Le Cateau, the 2nd KOYLI lost 18 officers and 832 other ranks, however it was later reported that 370 had been taken prisoner.
On 24th September 1914 the 2nd KOYLI advanced north, crossing the River Aisne to occupy the trenches at Missy. However there was soon stalemate on the Aisne and the BEF was withdrawn, to be re-deployed in Flanders. After the formation of the Ypres Salient the 2nd KOYLI remained in Flanders.
During the second Battle of Ypres, which commenced on 22nd April 1915, the 2nd KOYLI was involved in fighting at St Julien and Hill 60. For the rest of the year the 2nd KOYLI was involved in the routine of trench warfare, with all the hardships caused by the weather and enemy guns and snipers.
In January 1916 the 2nd KOYLI transferred to the 97th Infantry Brigade, 32nd Division and after a period of training, moved to the trenches on the River Ancre, in readiness for deployment on the Somme battlefield.
The Battle of the Somme commenced at 07.30 hours on 1st July 1916, when the 2nd KOYLI was in support of an attack near the village of Authuille. The battalion was soon called upon to advance, but due to machine gun fire from Thiepval, suffered many casualties before reaching the British front line. However some companies on the right made good headway and entered the front trench of Leipzig Salient. Here they were involved in some close quarter fighting, before being forced to withdraw. Late on the 2nd July the 97th Infantry Brigade was withdrawn for re-organisation, the 2nd KOYLI having incurred more than 340 casualties. On the evening of 7th July, the 97th Brigade returned to the trenches at Authuille Wood, with the 2nd KOYLI now consisting of only two companies. Later the 32nd Division was withdrawn to the Bethune sector for re-organisation, but returned to the Somme in October 1916.
The final phase of the Battle of the Somme commenced on the 13th November 1916, with attacks north of the River Ancre. The 97th Brigade joined the attack at dawn on the 18th November, with the 2nd KOYLI on the left of the attack. Due to heavy machine gun and rifle fire, the battalions on their right were forced to retire. The two right companies of 2nd KOYLI, although reaching Munich trench, were also forced to retire. However the two left companies not only reached Munich trench, but pressed forward to Ten Tree Alley. Here they were heavily attacked and fought until they died. On being relieved on the 19th November the remnants of the battalion moved to billets at Mailly-Maillet, having incurred 365 casualties.
One of these casualties was Private Harry Summerscales, killed in action on 18th November 1916. His body was never identified and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme battlefield. This Memorial bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men who died on the Somme sector and who have no known grave. Harry Summerscales is also remembered on the Wrenthorpe Colliery War Memorial in the grounds of St John’s Church, Wakefield.
Harry Summerscales was born in 1894, the eldest son of Fenton Summerscales and his wife Annie, formerly Ainley, of Batley. His father was a coal miner, working underground at a local colliery. The family lived at Union Street, Batley for a time, before moving to Cross Street at Gawthorpe. The family was still at Gawthorpe when Harry left school and obtained work as a colliery underground labourer. Later the family moved to Outwood, where Harry became a member of the Wesleyan Sunday School. In 1914, when Harry Summerscales enlisted in the army, he was employed at Low Laithes Colliery and his parents were living at Croft Cottages, Outwood.