Harold Charles Witney was a twin who came to Chelmsford from east London and was educated at the town’s grammar school. After working as a clerk he joined the army and went to France in July 1916 and was killed at the Battle of Ancre in November 1916.
Harold was born at South Woodford on 24th February 1896, a twin son of William Jesse Witney and Minnie Sophia Witney (nee Goddard). His father had been born in Bow, London in 1863; his mother in Bethnal Green, London in 1864.
They had married at St. Leonard’s Church, Bromley in east London on 11th August 1888. At the time Harold’s father was a 24 year-old clerk; his bride was a year younger and they both lived in Bromley.
In 1891 they had been resident at Forest Gate.
Harold’s three siblings were Herbert William Witney (born in 1889 in Bethnal Green, died in 1951), Frank Goddard Witney (born in 1891 in Forest Gate, died in 1964) and Harold’s twin, Ronald John Witney (died in 1963).
The 1901 census found five year-old Ronald living with his parents and three brothers at 16 Meath Road in Ilford. At the time his father was a clerk.
Harold was educated at Broomfield Elementary School until he commenced at King Edward VI’s Grammar School in Chelmsford as a day scholar in Form III on 16th September 1908. At that time his father was a commercial clerk for the London firm of Cuthbert and Hill. and resident at 26 Park Avenue, Chelmsford (later renumbered as 32, and again to become today’s number 21) .
Harold left the Grammar School on 28th July 1911, aged 15 and in Form V, and went on to become a clerk. Harold’s twin William also attended the Grammar School for the same period and also went on to become a clerk. Their elder brother Frank had been educated at the Grammar School from May 1905 to December 1906.
WITNEY, HAROLD CHARLES,
Lance Corporal, 10th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers
The 1911 census found 15 year-old Harold living with his parents and three brothers still at 26 Park Avenue in Chelmsford. Harold’s father was a merchant’s clerk, his two eldest brothers worked for an electrical engineer’s.
Harold later lived at Westcliff-on-Sea and enlisted in London and served with the 10th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). The battalion had been formed in the City of London in August 1914 and had the unofficial title of the ‘Stockbrokers’.
Harold landed in France on 31st July 1915. He was killed in action on 18th November 1916 while serving as Lance Serjeant STK/874. That day his battalion, then attached to 111th Brigade in the 37th Division, was in action at Beaucourt during the Battle of the Ancre. The day also saw the end of the Battle of the Somme, of which the Battle of the Ancre was the final part.
Harold has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, near Albert, Somme, France, on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford and by the Chelmsford Parish Great War Memorial in Chelmsford Cathedral.
He was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal.
His mother died in 1931, aged 66; his father died in 1934, aged 70 - at the time he was living at Rayleigh.