Harold George Mason Squirrell was born in Kelvedon and moved to London as a small boy, where his father ran a removals business. He worked as a butcher’s assistant before joining the army. He arrived in France in June 1915 and was killed by a sniper three months later. His connection with Chelmsford has yet to be identified.
Harold was born in Kelvedon in 1896, the son of George William Squirrell and Elizabeth Ellen Squirrell (nee Mason). Harold’s father had been born in Kelvedon in 1875; his mother at Battlesbridge in 1875. The couple had married late in 1895.
Harold’s siblings included sisters Ivy Ellen Squirrell (born in 1898 in London, baptised at Kelvedon on 1st July 1899, when her father was described as a carman of Wandswoth Road, Clapham, London, and died in 1991); Myrtle Dorothy Squirrell (born in 1900 in Clapham, Surrey and baptised at Kelvedon on 15th July 1900, when her father was described as a baker of King’s Cross, London), and Gladys Marjorie Squirrell (born in 1904 in London, died in 1984).
The 1901 census found Harold, aged five, living with his parents and two younger sisters at 131 Larkhall Lane, Clapham. Harold’s father was employed as a milkman.
A decade later the family, including 15 year-old Harold, were living in the St. Marylebone District of London. At the time Harold was a butcher’s assistant, while his father was a carman.
Harold enlisted at Chelmsford in October 1914 and served as Trooper 1406 with the Essex Yeomanry, a cavalry regiment. The Essex Yeomanry had assembled at Ipswich, Suffolk after mobilisation on 7th August 1914, moving to Melton near Woodbridge, Suffolk soon afterwards. At the end of November 1914 it had crossed from Southampton to Le Havre, before proceeding to the Hazebrouck area in northern France, close to the Belgian frontier. There it formed part of the 8th Cavalry Brigade, itself part of the 3rd Cavalry Division and afterwards, in early February 1915, had moved north-eastwards and gone into the line east of Ypres in Belgium.
The regiment had suffered severe losses during the Second Battle of Ypres in May 1915, an event Harold narrowly missed as he did not arrive in France until 8th June 1915. He was part of a draft of two officers, 180 men and 53 horses that joined the regiment four days later at Blaringhem, south-west of Hazebrouck.
The whole of the next three months were devoted to training in cavalry work, bombing, rifle practice and polo. From 13th August 1915 to 4th September 1915 digging parties were at work near Armentières, east of Hazebrouck. The regiment moved south-westwards away from the front to the Bomy area and was billeted at Matringhem.
SQUIRRELL, HAROLD GEORGE MASON,
Trooper, C Squadron, Essex Yeomanry
On 21st September 1915 Harold’s regiment left its billeting area, travelling eastwards to participate in the Battle of Loos. The following day the Essex Yeomanry was at Noyelles-lès-Vermelles, north-east of Loos. Just after midnight on 27th September 1915 it was ordered to move on to Loos. which by then had been captured by the British, and take over defences on the eastern side of the town from the 3rd Dragoon Guards. Unfortunately it was light before the relief could be completed. Consequently the Essex Yeomanry men were exposed to the view of the Germans and one of them, Harold, was shot and killed by a sniper. He was aged 19 and the Essex Yeomanry’s only fatality that day.
The Essex Yeomanry war diary contains the following extract which mentions Harold’s death:
“27th September 1915 - Marched on into Loos in G36C and M6A. 2 guides from 3rd Dragoon Guards showed the way. It was about 04.15 by the time the Regiment began to take over and was light before this was completed. The Machine Gun section which was left in the village unloading from packs did not reach the trenches till daylight and was heavily sniped coming up. One man of C Squadron who was carrying belt boxes Pte Squirrel was killed and one wounded. ”
Harold has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial at Dud Corner Cemetery, France, some five kilometres north-west of Lens, the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford and on the Essex Yeomanry War Memorial at Chelmsford Cathedral. He was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal. His connection to Chelmsford has yet to be established.
After the war Harold’s parents lived at 13 Craven Road, Paddington, London. His father died in London in 1935, aged 60.
His mother died in 1957, aged 82.
Acknowledgements to Ian Miller