Private Harry Granger
221123 11th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment who died on 19 May 1917
Harry Granger, born in 1891 was the eldest son of James and Sarah Ann Granger (nee Chambers) who had ten surviving children at the time of the 1911 census. James was a bricklayer and Harry was a shoe finisher.
The Granger family have lived in Oadby for at least 175 years. Harry’s paternal great grandfather, Thomas Granger is recorded in the 1841 census as living in Maltings, Oadby and his maternal great grandfather, Charles Chambers is shown in the same census as living close by in London Road, Oadby. Both are recorded as working as agricultural labourers. The Maltings was a cottage accessed by a track (Maltings Lane) from London Road. It was in the vicinity of King Street and demolished in the 1930s to make way for the A6 bypass.
The Malting House
Over the last 175 years the family name has be variously spelt Granger or Grainger. A family story suggests that this was because the various branches of the family were so prolific and used identical Christian names (Tom, Ted, Harry and Sarah being particularly popular) that a teacher used the ‘i’ to denote which branch of the family the children belonged to. However it is probably more likely that the spelling depended on the enumerator compiling the census returns.
Harry’s branch of the Grangers lived at Lawn Terrace, East St. Oadby. But in the 1900s three generations of Grangers also occupied cottages in Ward’s Yard off London Road. These included Harry’s grandparents Thomas and Ann Grainger, some aunts and uncles, cousins and at various times Harry’s siblings. Each branch of the family averaged about 10 children, including twins and triplets, and it was usual for some older children to live with relatives and neighbours. In 1901 Harry lived with his 3 year old cousin Dick Hassel at the home of their maternal grandparents Charles and Sarah Chambers on London Road. In 1911 Harry was lodging with Richard and Clara Elliott on East Street, while his parents and seven younger siblings lived opposite in Lawn Terrace and two of his brothers Thomas Ernest and John Wilson were at Ward’s Yard.
Lawn Terrace on East Street is on the right of the photograph. The houses on the left were demolished to make way for the Oadby A6 by pass.
Harry enlisted in the Leicestershire Regiment on 23 October 1915 at the age of 24years and 10 months. At a height of 6’3” he stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries when the average height of volunteers was 5’6”. Possibly because of his strong physique he was posted to the 11th Battalion.
The 11th Leicesters (Midland Pioneers) was formed by the Lord Mayor of Leicester in October 1916 to provide the Royal Engineers with skilled labour to build roads and repair bridges. One army captain recalled, “A typical pioneer job was this – to be present under shell fire all day in support of the main attack. Then move forward and grab ground and dig trenches in so called no man’s land under enemy fire at night. Go back before daybreak, sleep and start again. Casualties no object.”
Pioneers repairing a plank road following mine crater damage.
The battalion embarked at Southampton on 23 March 1916, arriving in France the following day. In April 1916 the 11th Leicesters joined the 6th Division and began preparing for the ‘big push’ planned on the Somme.
Reflecting the danger in which the Pioneers worked, but also the urgency and need for their services, Harry was wounded on 4 July but returned to duty two days later. He was seen again at a field hospital on the 8 July with a fresh shrapnel wound to his left knee and foot but was returned to active duty yet again on the 15 July 1916.
Harry’s service record shows no further incident until Spring 1917. On 17 May 1917 the Leicester Pioneers were stationed at Mazingarbe, north of Arras, when Harry received a compound fracture to his skull, probably during a shell barrage. He died of wounds two days later at a field hospital.
Private Harry Granger is Buried with Honour at Choques Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. He is also commemorated on the Oadby war memorial
Choques Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
Oadby and Wigston Advertiser 9 June 1917
During the war numerous men of the Granger family enlisted including Harry’s three brothers and several cousins. They are all described as exceptionally tall and well built. These included Tom Grainger who died in November 1915 and Ted Potterton (son of Ellen Granger Potterton) who died in November 1917. Both died in tragic vehicle accidents whilst recovering from wounds in the UK.
Leicester Illustrated Chronicle 3 May 1919.
The Black Dog skittle team. Harry’s father James is on the back row third right. His uncle Thomas is second right on the back row.
Cousin Tom Grainger was a Coleville based policeman before the war. He was killed in a car accident whilst recovering from wounds at Patrington, Hull in November 1915.
Cousin Ted Potterton had recently been discharged unfit for active service due to crippling leg wounds when he was crushed under the wheels of a train at Purfleet station in November 1917.