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Harry Kemp Marshall

Private 3198 Harry Kemp Marshall, 2/4th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment.

Harry Marshall

Harry Marshall.

Harry was born in 1895, the son of George Henry Marshall and his wife Elizabeth Emma née Kemp. He was the fourth of their five sons; there were also two sisters, one of whom, Elizabeth Emma (1879-1880), died in infancy, the other  Mary (1880) was the eldest child. The remaining brothers were Frederick Bishop (1885), Montague George (1890), Walter Percy (1891), and Albert Edward (1897). All but Albert were born in Newbury;  he was born in Wargrave -  the family lived there in Victoria Road for over ten years while George worked as a house painter.

George worked at a number of other jobs: barman, grocer’s assistant, and finally, on the family’s return to Newbury in 1909, as landlord of the Atlas Brewery Tap in Bartholomew Street. This was probably a managed house (run by a salaried manager), which was relatively rare in those days when most pubs were tenanted (run by a landlord who pays rent to the brewery). However, the Brewery Tap was a part of the South Berks Brewery site and was, in effect, an off-sales shop for the Brewery which happened to have a bar. It is noticeable that they almost always give the name as 16a Bartholomew Street, with no mention of the bar name.

The connection with the brewery probably helped Harry, who was able to get a job in the brewery office.

In 1914, like so many young men, Harry responded to the call for volunteers to serve in the Army. He chose to join the Royal Berkshire Regiment, the local infantry regiment. He opted to join the Territorial battalion, probably because his elder brother, Walter, was already serving with that battalion having signed up for part time soldiering on 29 March 1911. Another attraction of the Territorials was the uniform, which their commissaries had in store; men joining the new ‘Kitchener’ battalions of the Regular army had to wait months for a uniform, often not getting one until 1915 - it took time to manufacture uniforms for a million new recruits.

Very soon after the declaration of war the part-timers were mobilised and reported to the regimental barracks in Reading. Each soldier was asked to volunteer for deployment overseas because Territorial service conditions limited their deployment to the UK.  The battalion was then split into two, the 1st/4th or 1/4th being the men (about 70%) who were prepared to go to France (or any other theatre of war), while the core of the 2/4th comprised those men who preferred to remain in the UK. Walter went overseas in 1915 with the 1/4th, but Harry remained in the UK with the 2/4th. This does not necessarily mean that he opted for home service, as a new recruit he would probably not be given that option, but he would not have been fully trained by the time the 1/4th Battalion crossed the Channel. In January 1916 the Military Service Act changed the Territorials service conditions (as well as introducing conscription) – the 2/4th could now be sent to France. The battalion landed at Le Havre on 27 May 1916.

Berkshire Regiment badge

The regimental badge of the Berkshire Regiment, as used on CWGC headstones.

The preparations for the Battle of the Somme were already well underway, but the 2/4th Berks were not to take part in the main battle, instead their division (the 61st) was sent to the area around La Bassée, scene of much of the British fighting in 1915. An attack was planned for 17 July against the enemy occupying Aubers Ridge; this actually took place on 19 July near the village of Fromelles and has become infamous for the waste of Australian lives - but many lads from Berkshire fell alongside them. However, Harry would not take part in the Battle of Fromelles; he died a few days earlier on 13 July during a raid on the enemy line carried out by half a company (100 men) from the battalion.

For a full account of the raid see here.

News of Harry’s death reached home very quickly:

Newbury Weekly News, 20 July 1916 – Killed in Action
MARSHALL – July 13, killed in action, Pte H K Marshall, 2/4th Royal Berks Regt, fourth son of George Henry and Elizabeth Emma Marshall of 16a Bartholomew-street, Newbury, aged 21.
        Somewhere in France he is lying,
        Amid the shot and shell;
        He Served his King and Country,
        We loved him oh so well.

Never to be forgotten. – From his loving Father, Mother and Family.

More details were printed in the column dedicated to bringing news of the local lads in uniform:

Newbury Weekly News, 20 July 1916 – Local War Notes
Intelligence was received on Wednesday (yesterday) by Mr and Mrs G H Marshall, of 16a, Bartholomew-street, that their fourth son, Private H K Marshall, was among the fallen. A letter from the C E Chaplain, Rev A R Tucker, dated Friday, July 14th, told the news that their son was killed in action on the previous night and that afternoon had been buried in the quiet little cemetery not far from where he fell. A cross would be erected over the grave in the course of a few days. He was laid to rest with Lieut Freeth and three of his comrades, and the funeral was attended by six officers and the members of his platoon. The writer added: “I offer you my deep sympathy, and I hope you may be comforted by the few words I write to you at this sad time.”

It was only on Friday last that a letter was received by Mr and Mrs Marshall from their son, in which he playfully remarked that his brother would not need to come out, for they were now going to finish the way. This had reference to his brother Walter Percy, who was a time-expired soldier, but who was now called up for further service on the 3rd of August. Prior to joining the colours, which he did early in the war, the deceased was a clerk in the office of the South Berks Brewery Company. He spent his training at Chelmsford, Maidenhead and Salisbury Plain, leaving the latter camp about two months ago for over-sea warfare. Deceased was 20 years of age.

Name on Newbury War Memorial

Harry's name on Newbury War Memorial

(upper left)

Harry was buried in grave III. M. 11 at St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L'avoue.


Locally Harry is remembered on Tablet 5 of the Newbury Town War Memorial, and also on the roll of honour and memorial board in St Nicolas’ Church.

He was not forgotten by his family:

Newbury Weekly News, 19 July 1917 –  In Memoriam
In ever loving memory of our darling boy, Pte Harry Kemp Marshall, of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regt, sixth son of George Henry and Elizabeth Emma Marshall of 16a, Bartholomew-street, Newbury, aged 21, who was killed in action in France July 13th, 1916.

Newbury Weekly News, 18 July 1918 –  In Memoriam
In ever loving memory of our darling boy,  Harry Kemp Marshall, 5th son of Mr and Mrs Marshall of 16a, Bartholomew-street, Newbury, who was killed in action July 13th, 1916.
        Two years have gone we shall always miss him,
        Some may think the wound is healed;
        But they little know the sorrow
        That is within our heart concealed.
From his loving Father and Mother, Sister, and Brothers.


The newspaper report of Harry’s death refers to his brother Walter as a ‘time-expired soldier’ – who had been called up for further service on 3 August.  Territorials signed up in peacetime for a four year term of service. Many, like Walter, reached the end of this term during the war; the army then had the option to extend the term for one year after which they had to let them go (though they could, of course, re-enlist). Walter opted to escape and was discharged on 3 April 1916 after five years service.

However, an amendment to the Military Service Act meant that he became liable to conscription so it would not have been a surprise had he been called back to his regiment. What is surprising was that he did not go back to the Army; instead he enlisted into the Navy on 29 November. How he managed this is a mystery, especially since he was, according to the newspaper, called up in August.  However, one cannot fault his survival instincts. He survived the war shovelling coal as a Stoker and died in Newbury in 1973.

It is somewhat ironic that Harry referred to the lack of a need for Walter’s re-enlistment since their younger brother, Albert Edward was still a civilian and would soon receive his call-up papers. He went out to France with the Wiltshire Regiment where he died on 12 April 1918. His name is immediately below Harry’s on the Newbury memorial.

A further notice appeared in the local paper a few weeks after the end of the war, in one of the last Local War Notes columns:

Newbury Weekly News, 12 December 1918 – Local War Notes
The family of Mr and Mrs George Marshall, in addition to the two sons already lost during the war, have now experienced a further loss in the death of their fourth son. There are now two others left, one with the Army in France and the other in the Navy.

As Harry was the fourth son there was certainly some confusion involved in this piece; in fact this was recording the death of the second son, Montague George Marshall, who died in the County Asylum at Fairmile, Cholsey. He was buried in the churchyard at St Mary’s, Cholsey on 2 December 1918. While Montague did volunteer for service with the Royal Berkshire Regiment on 27 August 1914 his service was short – he was discharged on the same day!  He went through the recruitment process, presumably passing a physical examination, and was allocated the regimental number 14213. It can only be surmised that he later exhibited signs of mental illness, which resulted in his immediate discharge. He was still only 28 when he died.

Albert’s eldest brother, Frederick Bishop, also served in France (as recorded in the newspaper report on Montague’s death) but it has not been possible to identify which of the many Fred, Frederick and F Marshalls who served might have been him.

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 Died this day:
25 July 1945
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