The LSO in World War I: Harry Jackson

By | August 18, 2014 at 10:09 am | No comments | Archives | Tags:

In the second of our series of blogs remembering the service of LSO members in World War I we tell the story of horn player Harry (Harold) Jackson.

“Sympathetic reference was made in regard to those members of the Orchestra whom had joined His Majesty’s Forces, viz: Messrs WH Reed, Philip Lewis, E Carwardine, H Ralph, T Peatfield, ER Wilby, R Carrodus, B Reillie, S Freedman, J Meacham, A Tibbetts, A Ives, C Woodhouse, CB Jones, F Hawkins, Roy Robertson, E Yonge, C Dorling, P Kilburn, R Garnet, CA Crabbe, A Maney, C Blackford, RV Tabb, JH Silvester, R Murchie, F Almgill, E J Augarde, H Thornton, A Penn, H Jackson, E Hall, S Moxon, ET Garvin. Deep regret was expressed at the untimely death of Sydney Moxon, killed in action in France, whilst conveying a wounded man to a place of safety.”

Among the names listed in the minutes of the AGM of 27 July 1917 was the name H Jackson. We knew very little about H Jackson – not even his first name. A convention of the times was to refer to men only with their first initial, particularly in official documents such as concert programmes and our register of share certificates for the Orchestra. So although we knew from concert programmes from the time that H Jackson played the French horn, we could find no reference at all to his full name.

A few weeks after starting our research project one of our volunteers Paul came across the online database of members of the Royal Society of Musicians. Happily for us this database provided the answer to this same question for many of the names on our list, featuring as it did the full name, dates of birth and death and a short biography for many LSO members. Our man was Harold Jackson, born 5 July 1886.

With his birth and death dates we set off to find Harold. But although we could find his birth and death certificates, we couldn’t locate him in any of the census records. Harold was born in Eccleshill in Yorkshire, and died in Surrey on 30 May 1957 at the age of 71. We know from our own records that he first played with the LSO on 22 May 1916.  Other than that we have not been able to find any details of his parents or siblings, where they lived when he was a boy, nor what he did after leaving the LSO. What we did find was a wealth of information on his military service.

In 1916 we find Harry, as he was known, living in New Malden in Surrey with his wife Lizzie Lodge, whom he had married on 26 October 1908 in Harrogate. He attested on 19 June 1916 – only a month after joining the LSO – and was assigned to the Royal Engineers Railway Troops. He had the service number 181420 and the rank of Sapper – a role which included tasks such as building bridges and roads. Harry would have been among the first wave of married men to be conscripted after it was extended from bachelors only in May 1916. Although we have no pictures of Harry, his medical report gives us a clue as to his stature – he was a very short 5ft 1ins, with a large chest of 39.5ins which could expand another 2.5ins. He described himself as a Bugler, which may explain his large chest – interesting that he preferred to specify a more military instrument as his trade rather than the instrument he played with the LSO, the French horn. Perhaps this is indicative of the fact that he had only joined the Orchestra a month before.

It could be assumed that Harry had already had some experience of railway engineering before joining the RE, as the job was skilled. The Railway Troops were an important group on the Western Front, building railways to assist the movement of troops to and from the front – including casualties and prisoners, supplies and munitions – and helping with the construction of major camps and bridges. Although Harry’s records don’t specifically given details of his postings, the Railway Troops were trained at Longmoor in Hampshire, and it seems that his entire time with the RE was spent here.

On 26 November 1917 Harry received a compulsory order to transfer to the Royal  Garrison Artillery to reinforce the numbers at the RGA N0 2 Depot in Gosport. He was given the rank of Gunner and the service number 197119. Despite being a gunner, he also gave his specialist military qualification as ‘trumpeter’, and so may have been employed in the ceremonial duties.

He was posted to the Siege School in Lydd on 23 March 1918 and 5 days later, on 28 March 1918, he left for France, where he joined up with the 152nd 24th Heavy Battery. The operational diaries of the 152nd are available to read online (PDF) and show the Battery based at Monchy-aux-Bais. They were principally engaged in day and night harassing tasks on road, tracks, railways and dumps. Operations gradually settled down to trench warfare, and batteries were busy in constructing pits and shellproof dug outs for detachments.

On 7 September 1918 whilst on duty in Beaumetz, Harry was kicked in the face by a horse. It was noted that he was “not to blame” for this incident, but it was to cause him some trouble later on. At the end of the war, during the demobilization process in September 1919, Harry spent some time in the General Hospital in Bonn, where his injury was examined, presumably as part of a claim for a disability pension. He claimed his cheek and upper lip on the right hand side was numb and had incomplete movement, and was naturally worried that, having survived the war, the injury would mean his civilian career playing woodwind and brass instruments would be over. It appears though that the injury was not considered to have had permanent consequences, and his application for payments was denied.

Harry was finally discharged on 5 November 1919 at Calais, and was transferred into the reserve, which existed in order to easily recall soldiers from civilian life in case fighting broke out again.

We know that Harry’s injury did not have the drastic consequences for his career that he had feared. He returned to the ranks of the LSO in 1920 and performed with the Orchestra until 1935.

How can you help?

There are many things that we don’t know about Harry:

  • Who were his family? Who were his parents; did he have any siblings?
  • What was he like?
  • Where did he go to school?
  • How did he come to be a musician?
  • What was his life as a soldier like?
  • What did he do after leaving the LSO in 1935 (aged 50)?
We also do not have any photos of Harry.

Are you related to Harry, or know of any of his living relatives? Do you have any photos of him, or the LSO, during the war? If you can answer any of the above questions, please do add them to Harry’s Life Story page on Lives of the First World War, or get in contact with our archivist Libby Rice on libby.rice@lso.co.uk.

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