Harry Beadsworth

Name Harry Beadsworth
Corps Nottingham & Derby (Sherwood Foresters) 1st/7th Battalion
Rank Private
Service No. 3272/265902
Date/Place of entry 28 June 1915
Date of death 1 July 1916 Killed in Action
Memorial/Grave Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 10 C 10 D and 11 A

Harry Beadsworth was one of seven children born to William Beadsworth (Beesworth) and his wife Esther nee Tansley of Cottingham. William and Esther moved to Nottingham around 1885 and Harry was born there in 1887.
The Cottingham Beadsworth line were all descended from Antony Beadsworth who was born in Bringhurst / Drayton around 1800 and settled in Cottingham following his marriage. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the name was variously written as Beadsworth, Beesworth, Beardsworth and occasionally Busworth; it appears prominently in the Uppingham parish registers from the seventeenth century onwards, Antony being a popular choice of given name.

William himself was one of the eight children of farm labourer William Beadsworth and his wife Priscilla nee Readyhough, and therefore one of Antony’s grandsons. His sister Sarah married Solomon Oliver, and sister Priscilla married Thomas Booth. This made Harry cousin to soldiers Samuel William Booth and Frederick Oliver. Another sister, Alice, married Charles Crane; their son Thomas served in the 2nd Leicestershire Regiment and was in India in 1911 alongside William James Tansley.

Harry’s mother Esther was one of the daughters of James Tansley and his wife Alice nee Coles, which made her a cousin of William Coles and aunt to William James Tansley. Harry was therefore closely related to four soldiers named on the Cottingham War Memorial.

Several Cottingham families chose to move to Nottinghamshire in the later nineteenth century where the railways, coal mines and associated industrial growth offered an alternative to farm labouring during a time of agricultural depression. There was also plenty of work for women in the lace industry following the invention of the Nottingham Lace Curtain machine in 1846.

William earned a living there as a bricklayer / bricklayer’s mate and Esther as a lace worker. The family settled in Foundry Yard, in the parish of St John, in the area known as Narrow Marsh which was considered the poorest part of the congested city. The name Foundry Yard marks the casting there in 1610 of Lincoln Cathedral’s "Great Tom of Lincoln,” the fourth largest bell in England.

Shortly before the Beadworths moved there, population density in the Marsh was 3000 to the acre, compared with 19.4 in the city overall. In 1881 the parish had contained over 7,000 people squashed into its alleys, courts and yards, and by 1914 the whole area had deteriorated to the point where wholesale demolition was planned. The onset of war prevented this from happening until the 1920s. On the other hand, the 1880s saw the start of the town’s (Nottingham became a city only in 1897) modern sewage system, the first outside London, and on the education front, the creation of the country’s first children’s library.

Nottingham was well established as a railway city by the 1880s and the Beadsworths may have travelled there by train. The Midland Counties Railway had opened a Leicester- Nottingham line back in 1840 and a line was built along the Leen Valley from Nottingham to mining communities such as Hucknall Torkard to where three interrelated Cottingham families – Vickers, Johnson and Hobbs –relocated in the 1870s. The Great Northern Railway opened a new station on London Road, and in 1888 the London and North Western Railway arrived, followed by the Great Central Railway in 1899. The 1891 census lists seventeen people born in Cottingham/Middleton and living in Nottingham and nearby, and in 1911 this had increased to twenty.

Harry was living with his parents and employed as an errand boy in 1901 but in 1911 his occupation was lace threading. This involved threading bobbins into the carriages of lace manufacturing machines. In 1908 he married Ada Clements, a slip winder – someone who tends the machines winding strands of yarn from bobbins. Their son Harry was born late that year; in May 1915 just before his father joined up, little Harry was rescued from drowning in a Nottingham Canal into which he had fallen while playing.

Harry Beadsworth joined the 1st/7 Battalion (Known as the Robin Hoods) of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire (Sherwood Foresters) Regiment on 28 June 1915. It was a territorial battalion so he must have already had some military training. His brother George Beadsworth had enlisted with this battalion in the previous October but transferred into the Royal Warwickshire regiment later. Their elder brother William Beadsworth had served with the Lincolnshire regiment in 1904. 

The 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions formed the 139 (Forester) Infantry Brigade in the 46th (North Midland) Division and were engaged in heavy fighting through 1915. This included the attacks at Hooge in July and on the Hohenzollern Redoubt in October during the Battle of Loos. In the latter action the Division suffered heavy losses, causing much friction between the Divisional Commander Major General Stuart Wortley and the then First Army commander, General Haig.

Two days before Christmas the Division was ordered to Egypt, sailing from Marseilles.  Most of the units arrived there on 13 January but within a few days the order was countermanded and they had all returned to France by the 9th March.

The Division was swiftly sent to fight in the trenches on Vimy Ridge. The number of casualties there was high, and the troops were also seriously affected by virulent outbreaks of typhoid, trench fever and diphtheria. To add to the Division’s problems, drafts to replace men lost at the Hohenzollern Redoubt had yet to bring it to full strength, and many of the new officers had not previously fought on the Western Front.

Despite its weakened state, in April the Division was ordered south to take part in the attack at Gommecourt planned for 1st July. This action was intended to create a diversion from the main attack further south along the Somme. The 1/7 Sherwood Foresters arrived at Fonquevillers on the Somme in May. It is highly unlikely that the rank and file knew they were to be deployed in a diversionary tactic rather than in the main battle.

1st July, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, was a beautiful sunny morning. The British attack opened just before 7.30 with a smoke screen on the 1/7th Sherwood’s' front. Within minutes a dense cloud obscured the whole of the enemy front and the first waves of soldiers started to move forward into No Man’s Land. The objective of the 1/7 Battalion was to capture the German trenches directly opposite them, namely Food Trench and Fork trench.

Unhappily the smoke screen was patchy, and by 8.00am it had pretty well drifted away. German gunfire proved devastating and continued all morning. Hardly any of the 1/7 Battalion had made it as far as the German line and few of those who had been in the first waves and were still alive managed to retreat to relative safety.
By the dawn of the following day, the area was covered with thousands of dead bodies. The 139 Brigade suffered 80% casualties in total. Casualties for the 1/7 numbered 424 officers and men, including its commanding officer; together with the 1/5 Sherwood Foresters they suffered some of the greatest casualties of any battalion on the Somme. The bodies of hundreds of soldiers were never recovered, among them Harry Beadsworth. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.  One hundred and eighty men who had enlisted in Nottingham had died in action that day. Forty three of these were Nottingham-born. ,

Shockingly they were accused by the Corps commander, Lt General Snow, of showing ‘a lack of offensive spirit’. However a contemporary military historian, J F C Fuller, who was present on the day, said the 46th Division's command and staff work was "absolutely shocking”. Major General Wortley was subsequently sacked.

There is an account of the 1/7 Battalion at Gommecourt and a photo, on its website: www.therobinhoods.org.uk/gommecourt.shtml
If you want to know more about what happened, the military historian Alan MacDonald ‘'A Lack of Offensive Spirit?’ is an in depth examination of the actions of the 46th Division at Gommecourt.

Harry’s widow Ada was left with her son, Harry. She had given birth to another child, William, in late 1913 but he lived only a few weeks. Between 1911 and 1918 there were seven birth registrations in Nottingham for the name Beadsworth, of whom only two survived their first year. Three of the dead infants were the children of Harry’s brother William.

Army registers of soldiers effects shows that Ada received a payment of 1 pound, 7 shillings and 5 pence and a war gratuity of 7 pounds,10 shillings. She married John Wheelhouse in 1920 and died in Nottingham in 1957.
Harry’s parents outlived him. Esther died in 1931 and William in 1946 aged eighty nine, still in Nottingham.
Harry’s brothers Frederick and George Beadsworth also served and survived. It is likely that his older brother William did likewise but he cannot be identified for certain in any WW1 record. Their brother in law Thomas Barsby, husband of Emma Jane, was a driver in the Royal Field Artillery and also survived.

Harry’s son served in the 2nd World War. Private Harry Beadsworth of Nottingham was initially listed as missing in July 1942, but a later report showed he’d been taken prisoner at Tobruk. He was freed by the Allies and in Southern Italy in June 1944.

There are six men named Beadsworth, including Harry, listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for the First World War. Four of them were descended from William and Alice Beesworth of Drayton and Bringhurst, and were therefore second cousins of the Cottingham branch. They were Charles Edward, William Joseph, Arthur and Alick (Alec) Slater Beadsworth. The remaining soldier listed on the website, Thomas Storey Beadsworth, was descended from a Beadsworth family of Uppingham and so highly likely to be a distant relative.