Harold was a Territorial who was mobilised on the outbreak of war, he served in the 1st/6th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own) and was a Signaller.
In 1911 he lived with his parents Harry and Elizabeth at 172 Gladstone Street, Bradford. Harry and Elizabeth had nine children, five boys and four girls who were aged between 7 and 23 in 1911. Harold (aged 16) like his three older sisters was at that time a mill worker.
Harold was killed on 25th January 1917. The battalion war diary shows:
23rd: The Battalion was relieved in the trenches and went in to Brigade Reserve at Bailleulval.
24th: The Battalion provided 300 men for work in the trenches.
25th: German aeroplanes were very active, several flew over Bailleulval. The usual working parties provided
26th: Hostile Artillery dropped a number of shells into village, one Signaller killed one injured.
(27th: Returned to the trenches.)
The Halifax Courier dated 10 February 1917 shows that Harold was the Signaller killed:
“SIGNALLER HAROLD WILKINSON. Signaller Harold Wilkinson WR Regiment, 13, Ford Hill, Ambler Thorn, was killed by a piece of shrapnel on Jan. 25. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Wilkinson, formerly of Bradford Moor.”
Mrs Wilkinson received two letters which were also published in the paper and describe the death of Harold, these are shown below.
Harold is buried in BAILLEULMONT COMMUNAL CEMETERY (B. 10) the inscription on his headstone reads: “Rest in the Lord”.
Harold’s brother Tom was also killed in war; both are remembered on the family grave in the cemetery.
Jan, 26, 1917
Dear Mrs. Wilkinson,
Perhaps you will have heard already of the sad death of your son, Pte (Private). H. Wilkinson. I am so very sorry for you and the other members of your family, for this distressing news must be a very great blow to you all.
Your son was killed instantly on Jan. 25. He was struck by a piece of a shrapnel, and I am relieved to be able to tell you that he suffered no pain. This is at any rate something to be thankful for, because some of these poor fellows have to suffer considerably before they die. I went to the place where your dear son was killed just a short time after, and made all necessary arrangements about the funeral.
I took the funeral today, and your son’s body rests in a cemetery about two miles from the trenches. Several other British soldiers are buried there, and many of your son’s comrades attended the service. A cross with suitable inscription will be erected over the grave.
Pte (Private). Harold Wilkinson was much respected in the battalion, and he has done his duty splendidly. As he was one of headquarters signallers, I frequently saw him. He will be much missed amongst us.
Your dear boy has died a most honourable death on behalf of his country and now we can only leave him in the all merciful and all loving hands of God. I hope that you will look forward to meeting your dear son again in a higher and better life than this.
May this steadfast hope comfort and keep you and yours.
With my sincere sympathy, yours truly,
R. Whincup (Chaplain West Yorkshire Regiment)
Dear Mr and Mrs Wilkinson,
Perhaps by the time you receive this letter you will have heard from other sources of the unfortunate end of your son Harold.
My object in writing is just to express to you my profound sympathy and that of all his comrades of the signal section and many others outside our own battalion with whom he was very popular.
I was nearby when the shell burst and struck the wall of the farm where we were billeted. He was stood in the circle of the flying fragments of brick, dust and iron. He received some pieces to the temple and fell unconscious. He did not recover and died shortly afterwards.
We buried him the following day in a French cemetery, just outside the village. You may rest assured that while we remain in this part of the country, his grave will receive every care and attention and anything his comrades can do to beautify it will be done with loving regard to the memory of their lost comrade.
Harold was one of the few remaining men who left Bradford with the battalion on the 9th of August 1914 and his loss is deeply felt by all of us who are of that few. We hope that the knowledge of his burial place and the little attentions his grave will receive from time to time may be a source of comfort to you.
I remain, yours sincerely,
James Ward, Sergeant