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Suffered from Trench Foot

Suffered from Trench Foot

Few details are know about his war service but as a result of trench foot he was slightly disabled for the rest of his life.

Henry (known as Harry) was born on 5th August 1890 at 22 Balmoral Road (the birth was registered on Sept. 6th) and went to St. Mary’s school in Liscard.

It seems that he started out as a grocer’s employee in Trafalgar Road, humping 200lb bags of sugar. This may have been in 1903 as in September of that year they obtained a copy of his birth certificate. There may have been a boxing and wrestling ring nearby and he was quite proud of his strength – his son recalled that he would box and wrestle (‘catch as catch can’- whatever that was) in a hay loft above the stables at Gardiner’s Yard and once badly burned his bare foot on a cigarette but. At some point he became an apprentice plumber, qualifying in that trade but he did not, as might have been expected, work for his father. He also started building a small yacht; it was apparently moored in the river and wrecked when a ship ran into it. Whatever the case one of the few things his son remembers Harry telling him was that in his youth he had enjoyed sailing. In 1911 he was a house painter like his father.

He served in the South Lancashire Regiment during WWI, apparently being promoted to sergeant (though photos only show two stripes), was present during a gas attack (they used to cover their faces with urine-soaked handkerchiefs before gas masks were issued) and suffered the loss of a number of toes as a result of contracting trench foot. It seems that he may have served closely with some Indian soldiers since he developed a liking for curry which in later years his wife would make for him as a special treat and also used the phrase ‘jildy’ to mean ‘hurry up’ – a phrase his daughter still used many years later.

Henry married Gladys Jones after the war and they had a son and daughter. In the early years of WWII Henry was living at 5 Churchill Grove, which had a Morrison shelter (brick with a concrete roof) in the back (at number 7 they had an Anderson, with corrugated iron). During the blitz many nights were spent in the discomfort of the shelter with only a candle under a terracotta plant pot for heat and light until Henry got a better heater. They would huddle in the gloom waiting for the all clear but some nights they would go back to the house only to be roused again by the sirens going off. Nearby in Lancaster Road a mine fell right on a shelter killing a large number of people. During the war Henry worked as directed labour on ships in Liverpool docks, painting the camouflage on to them and was none too happy at having to walk on cobbled streets with his sore feet. He often had to walk back to the Pier Head under the ‘dockers’ umbrella – or overhead railway – dodging the shrapnel. He then had to cross the river and perhaps walk back from the ferry quite late at night. He would also have to do spells of fire-watching and sometimes had to spend the night in Liverpool on the rooves watching for fires caused by incendiary bombs. On the night of May 3rd 1941 he returned home from Liverpool late and decided to sleep on the sofa in the downstairs front room. That night the SS Malakand in Huskisson Dock caught fire and as it was full of ammunition the explosion was massive, destroying the dock and flinging debris up to two miles away. The force was such that it blew the whole of the central window frame into the room, landing behind where he was lying. Later they moved to a superior, rented, property at 64 Strathcona Road. This must have been towards the end of 1942 or perhaps early 1943. The property had only just finished being repaired following a massive blast in the grounds of the Navy League (3.1.41) to the rear. The resulting crater was the size of a bus and a lump of clay was blown over quarter of a mile and through the roof of Cecil’s house in Kingswood Road. The last bomb fell in Merseyside on 10th January 1942 and in Wallasey on the preceding November 1st. but houses were not always repaired straight away, especially if unoccupied.

In later years Henry’s sight began to deteriorate and he began to wear glasses. At some point he began to suffer from an inability to straighten his fingers – perhaps an arthritic condition but possibly also a trait that ran in the family. He was unwell for some time and died on 23rd July 1948 of pulmonary tuberculosis, aged 57, apparently the death occurring at 56 Church Road, though no such address appears to have existed in Wallasey (Church Road Seacombe only went up to 40). The death was reported by Mr. Slee who was present at the end. Harry was buried in a grave in Rake Lane paid for by his widow for £5 5/- on Oct. 17th. This is a non-conformist section but Henry was not a churchgoer so it is not known why this was the case. He has this unmarked grave to himself. Noel Smith recalls that his widow was unhappy at finding the wreaths lying on her path in the sun

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