yeovil at War

Harwood Walter Gillingham

Killed in action during the day-to-day trench warfare of the Somme


Harwood Walter Gillingham was born in Yeovil in 1896, the son of weaver Walter William Gillingham (1861-1934) of Barwick and Grace Pengilly (1867-1932), originally from Cornwall. Walter and Grace were to have six children; Dora Jessie (b1891), Florence Elizabeth (b1892), Richard Henry (1894-1954), Harwood, William (b1900) and Mabel (b1905).

In fact the family were not long in Yeovil and before Harwood was aged five the family had moved to Angus, Scotland.

Sadly little is known of Harwood but he enlisted in Dundee as a Private in the 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. His Service Number 1919 indicating that he probably enlisted around November 1914.

In August 1914 the 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders were stationed in Plymouth as part of 8th brigade, 3rd Division. On 14 August 1914 the Battalion landed at Boulogne and on 12 September 1914 they left the Division and moved to Army Troops. After taking heavy casualties at Le Cateau the Battalion returned to Brigade on 30 September 1914.

Harwood joined his Battalion in France on 2 May 1915 in time for his Battalion's next major action, as opposed to day-to-day fighting. This was the Battle of Bellewaarde which took place on 16 June 1915 The battle, in which Harwood probably took part, is also known as the First Battle of Bellewaarde or The Battle of Hooge on the Ypres Salient. It took place on a battlefield approximately ½ mile square, where over 1,000 men died within a 12 hour period and many others wounded.

The Gordon Highlanders then moved to The Somme. Harwood Gillingham was killed in action during the day-to-day trench warfare of the Somme on 25 September 1915. He was just 19 years old.

Harwood Gillingham is commemorated on Panel 38, Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, but his name is not recorded on the War Memorial in the Borough.




Harwood Walter Gillingham


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Harwood Gillingham.


Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium

The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war. The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates casualties from the forces of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and United Kingdom who died in the Salient. In the case of United Kingdom casualties, only those prior 16 August 1917. It now bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The Ypres (Menin gate) Memorial, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick, was unveiled by Lord Plumer on 24 July 1927.