Harry was born in Newick in 1890, the fourth child of George Homewood, an agricultural labourer, and his wife Sophia. Both of Harry’s parents had also been born in Newick. By the following year, the family consisting of George, Sophia, George Jnr., Olive, Nellie and Harry were living close to The Green. By 1901, the family were living in one of the cottages at Bullsfield, and Harry’s eldest brother, Frederick was living at home, although George Jnr. was not, and Harry had gained a younger sister, Fanny. Harry attended the village school between 1897 and 1904.
By the time of the 1911 census Harry had moved to Brighton. He was living as a boarder with Mr and Mrs Alfred Jack and their family at 21 North Road, Preston, Brighton. His trade was listed as ‘House Decorator’. An article published in The East Sussex News of Friday 14th 1918 is light on details of his service but includes the fact that he was working at Selfridges in London before the war.
Church Road, Newick looking south
Harry joined up on 28th November 1916, and was sent to France on the 2nd March 1917 to serve as No. 28905 Private Harry Homewood of the Rifle Brigade. He was wounded on the 19th June 1917, but recovered and subsequently transferred to ‘B’ Company, 4th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps, where he served under the Regimental Number 143058.
By May 1918 the 4th Battalion was in the front line close to the La Bassée Canal near the village of Robecq. During this time the battalion spent time improving their fields of fire by removing hedges and growing corn, the later described in the unit’s War Diary as ‘a source of difficulty….now high enough to effectively mask fire of guns’. The battalion was heavily engaged in harassing fire on enemy positions especially at night.
The battalion’s War Diary describes the 14th May 1918 as a ‘quiet day’, but does mention enemy artillery fire. All official sources give this as the day of Harry’s death.
25 April 1918; Temporary bridge across a canal at Robecq
He is buried in St. Venant-Robecq Road British Cemetery, which lies on the road between the villages of St. Venant and Robecq, about 10 miles north-west of Bethune. Both villages were well behind the allied front line until the German Spring Offensive of 1918. The cemetery was established in April 1918 and continued in use until July, by which time it housed 47 burials.
After the Armistice the cemetery was greatly enlarged to accommodate remains brought in from smaller battlefield cemeteries. There are now a total of 479 Commonwealth burials, including 85 unidentified individuals, with special memorials to five men thought to be among the unidentified. The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.
Harry’s grave is highly unusual in that he is buried in the same plot as another member of ‘B’ Company, No. 29111 Corporal Frank Gant, a holder of the Military Medal. Next to their grave is a stone marked only with a cross (the Commonwealth War Graves Commission explain that there is usually no room on a double gravestone for this). Corporal Gant does not have a personal inscription in ‘his’ upper half of the gravestone, but that for Harry reads ‘ALTHO’ HIS FACE WE CANNOT SEE IN OUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS HE WILL EVER BE’, chosen by his mother. Harry’s age is given as 26, although he was actually 27 years old at the time of his death.
Next to that is another double grave of two more ‘B’ Company men, No. 132876 Private Harold Thomas Voizey, and No. 53048, Private H. Clark. All four men were killed on the same day, probably the crew of a single machine gun. A possible explanation for the nature of their burials is that their remains became mixed by shellfire either at death or before burial, or even after internment in their original graves (the gravestones are in the last plot to be completed at the site, so the bodies were clearly moved there after the Armistice).
According to a document held by Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the four men’s remains had been moved to the cemetery by April 1920, and lay under two crosses. By the time the undated contracts for the erection of the ‘official’ gravestones for the men were issued, the current arrangement of three headstones had been agreed.
Harry’s name appears on the school memorial, the church memorial, and in the village’s Roll of Honour and Book of Remembrance. His official records describe him as the ‘Son of Mrs G. Homewood, of Church Rd., Newick, Lewes, Sussex’. (the ‘G’ initial is that of his father, George). Harry's name is also included on the Selfridges memorial to those who lost their lives during the First and Second War. He was entitled to the Victory Medal and the British War Medal, which were presumably sent to his mother, who also received a letter of condolence from Selfridges.
Harry's name on the Selfridges memorial to those who lost their lives during the First and Second Wa
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