Corporal Harold Thomas Lee

Branch of service: Household Battalion of the Household Cavalry and Cavalry of the Line
Service No: 2698

Date & place of birth: April 1898 in Brighton
Date & place of death: 12 October 1917 (aged 19) at Passchendaele

Harold was the son of a West Sussex Police Constable and in his early years the family moved around the county. His elder brother Reginald was killed in May 1915 after having been wounded in the Dardanelles.

 Family background

Harold Thomas Lee was born in Brighton in early 1898, the second son of eight children of Thomas Lee, a West Sussex Police Constable, who was born in Slaugham, near Crawley, and Ellen Sarah Lee. Thomas Lee and Ellen Sarah Newman (originally from Great Baddow in Essex but now a maid to a Brighton stockbroker) were married at Brighton in late 1894. The couple’s first son, Reginald was born in the following February, followed by Harold and two more sons and then three daughters: an eighth child did not survive beyond infancy.

In 1901, the family was living in Amberley but by 1911 had moved to Cowfold with a spell in Funtington between these dates and later in Elsted.

Harold was educated in Amberley, Bognor and Funtington. At the time of Harold’s death his parents were living at ‘The Chequers’, in the tiny village of Well near Long Sutton, in Hampshire.

Military service

Harold enlisted in Midhurst but at that time he was recorded as residing in Petersfield. The Household Battalion was an infantry battalion being formed from the reserves of the Household Cavalry regiments.  His Battalion was involved in the First Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October 1917. From the Battalion’s war diary we learn that the Battalion was at their assembly position by 4.00am on that day, but suffered 50 casualties owing to enemy shelling before Zero Hour of 05.25am. Conditions were terrible with heavy rain and mud but some gains were made with the capture of the west end of the Vijwegen Spur, but due to a German counter attack at 4.00pm a defensive flank towards the village of Poelcapelle had to be formed. By the time the Battalion was relieved on 13 October only 5 Officers and 136 other ranks returned from the front line. On 10 October, when the Battalion went up to the front there were 498 other ranks. Between 4 and 13 October the Battalion’s casualties amounted to 13 Officers, killed or wounded and 394 other ranks killed, wounded or listed as missing.

Death and commemoration

It is not known when on 12 October Harold Thomas Lee was killed.

He is commemorated on the Rogate War Memorial and also on The Tyne Cot Memorial.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project