Gunner Harry Summerland

123132, 286th Seige Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery who died on 27 May 1917

Family History

Harry Summerland, born in 1882, was the elder son of Susan Summerland of Fern Bank, London Road, Oadby. His younger brother Matthias, a regular soldier in the 1st Bn., Leicestershire Regiment was Oadby’s second casualty of the war, killed during the 1st Battle of Ypres on 25 October 1914.  The boys also had an older sister Anne Jane born in 1873. It has not been possible to find a record of the siblings’ father and it does not appear that Susan ever married. According to the 1911 census Harry, a shoe trade worker, was the head of household living with his mother Susan a former hosiery machinist. This small family unit was part of a larger extended family of Summerlands living in Oadby at the time.

Fern Bank, London Road, Oadby. The Summerland home was the first cottage on the left.

Harry Summerland was a keen rugby player, playing first for the Oadby Swifts and later for the Oadby Rugby Football Club. The clubs were joined and the emerging team went on the win the Rolleston Cup in 1914. Most of Harry’s team mates volunteered during the war and several were killed. The team was briefly reformed after the war but so many players had been maimed or killed that it never again achieved its pre-war glory and was eventually amalgamated with Wigston’s team to become the Oadby Wiggstonians.

Oadby Swifts Rugby Football Club

Oadby RFC in action against Syston Street Old Boys 1909.

Military Service

Harry’s service record no longer exists so we do not know at what point he joined the colours, but he is mentioned in the Oadby Soldiers and Sailors list of serving men as stationed at Port Kileraggan, Scotland and part of 2/3 Company Royal Garrison Artillery. Held in the Leicestershire Records Office, the list was compiled during the Autumn of 1915 to facilitate the dispatch of Christmas parcels to serving men. It was added to throughout the war as men moved billets or regiments. At the time of Harry’s death he was serving with the 286th Seige Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery. The Royal Garrison Artillery was positioned well behind infantry battle lines comprised large guns and howitzers.

The 286th Siege Battery, RGA was formed at Portkil Battery, Kilcreggan, near Greenock, on 9 November 1916.  The first draft being posted from the Clyde Royal Garrison Artillery (Territorial Force). On 23 November 1916 the Battery moved to Ewshott, not far from Aldershot, for preliminary training and from there to the Tournai Barracks, Aldershot, on 19 January 1917 for more advanced training.  On 2 February 1917 the battery was stationed at Lydd before it entrained for Bristol.  It was initially equipped with 4.8” BL MkVI howitzers.  These were upgraded to four 8” howitzers when the battery embarked for France on the 30 March 1917.

Men of the Royal Garrison Artillery with an 8” howitzer gun.

At this point the battery had a strength of six officers, one warrant officer, five sergeants and 145 NCOs and men. On arrival in France the battery was posted to Bailleul on 10 April 1917. Two guns of the battery were brought into position at Mellerruis, behind the Ypres salient on the night of 25 April and fired their first rounds shortly afterwards.  Brigade Headquarters was located at La Clytte in rural Belgium. Harry was killed in action on 27 May 1917 probably during a counter barrage.

Memorials

Gunner Harry Summerland is Buried with Honour at La Clytte Military Cemetery, Belgium. He remembered on the Oadby War Memorial and on the Summerland family memorial in Oadby Cemetery.

 

Gravestone of Gunner Harry Summerland at La Clytte Military Cemetery, Belgium.

 

Announcement  of Harry’s death in the Oadby and Wigston Advertiser 9 June 1917  

      

The Summerland family memorial in Oadby Cemetery records the deaths in action of Harry and his brother Mathias