Harry was born in Newick in 1884, the youngest child of Samuel Streeter, a gardener from Maresfield, and his wife Harriet, who was from Fletching. He had 8 older siblings; Horace, Kate, Janet, Walter, Arthur, Alice, Albert and Georgina. By the time of the 1891 census, the family consisting of Samuel, Kate, Alice, Georgina and Harry were living at North Lodge Cottage, which lay in the grounds of North Lodge, a substantial 18th century house off the High Street, both since demolished, and now the site of the cul-de-sac which preserves the name of the house. Samuel was working as the gardener at North Lodge. Harry attended the village school from 1890 until 1897.
He joined the army in March 1901, signing up for Long Service of 12 years with the Cavalry of the Line, specifically the 1st Life Guards, part of the Household Cavalry, the senior regiment in the British army, with a history dating back to the grant of a royal warrant in the year 1666. No. 2345 Trooper Streeter’s attestation papers were completed in Brighton and are printed with ‘Her Majesty’, crossed out and replaced with ‘His Majesty’, following the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901, and the accession of King Edward VII.
The papers show that he gave his age as 18 years and 8 months (he was actually 17 years and 2 months old), and that he was 5ft 8in tall, weighed 149lbs, with a 34in chest, blue eyes, brown hair and a sallow complexion. His occupation is given as ‘Baker’ and religion as ‘Church of England’. The papers also show that he had some military experience, having previously belonged to the 1st Volunteer Engineers as part of the militia (the rough equivalent of the modern Territorial Army). He was initially posted to the Life Guards depot in Windsor, and subsequently spent time at both Hyde Park and Regents Park Barracks in London.
Harry’s medical records show that he suffered from a variety of ailments while in the Life Guards, and spent a considerable time in hospital. His first stay of 8 days in May 1901 was apparently the result of a fall from a horse, an obvious occupational hazard. Other medical problems included sciatica in October 1905, again probably owing to time in the saddle, and scabies in March 1909, successfully treated with sulphur ointment.
Harry left the full-time army by mutual consent in October 1909, transferring to the 1st Class Army Reserve, following service totalling 8 years and 207 days. His transfer papers give his age as 27 years and 3 months, consistent with the false age he gave in 1901. Army life had expanded his chest by 8in, with his helmet size was given as 22½ and ‘boot size and magnitude’ as ‘11s’. He gave his intended address as ‘8 Sutherland Street, Belgravia, London’, and Trooper Streeter returned to civilian life with his conduct and character whilst in the Life Guards described as ‘Very Good’.
Harry seems to have continued to live in London and by 1911 he was residing at No. 73 Edith Grove, Chelsea. He is listed as a member of the Veterans Corps of the 1st Life Guards. He had a housekeeper named Beatrice Bywater, who was from Norfolk. It is unclear how, or even if, he was earning a living, although curiously he is listed as a ‘worker’ suggesting he was employed in some way.
He was re-engaged in the Reserve in February 1913, and rejoined the Life Guards on 5th August 1914, the day after Great Britain declared war on Germany. His reintegration into army life seems to have been rapid, and he soon found himself on the continent as a member of the hastily assembled British Expeditionary Force, opposing the German invasion of Belgium.
The War Diary of the 1st Life Guards shows that troops disembarked at Zeebruge and Ostend in early October 1914 (Harry’s records show that he disembarked on the 6th of the month), and were billeted in the village of Lophem by 9th October, before moving east the following day. There were problems on the way, including delays owing to ‘non-receipt of orders’, cobbled roads and columns of Belgian artillery slowing progress.
The Life Guards spent much of the next week operating in Flanders, sending patrols to check on the positions of the invading German army. Orders were issued to the regiment to assemble at Ypres given reports of a ‘hostile force’ to the south of the town on the night of 13th October. The following day the Life Guard’s arrival in Ypres coincided with the appearance of a German Taube monoplane over the town, which was brought down by machine gun fire from armoured cars. On the same day the Life Guards suffered their first casualty, Corporal of Horse William Leggett, one of the first Australians to be killed in combat during the First World war, and almost certainly the first Australian to be killed in the defence of Ypres, (he was born in New South Wales and came to England and enlisted in the Life Guards in 1912). He was killed in a skirmish with German cavalry in the village of Gheluwe. There is a commemorative plaque dedicated to him in the village.
The Life Guards continued to make contact with the enemy, and on the evening of the 17th October, a 3-man patrol sent towards Passchendaele (at that time just the name of another Belgian village) encountered a German sentry, ‘caught him and prevented him calling out, and left him bound and gagged, apparently dead’. The following morning a second patrol was sent out and found that the bulk of the enemy had apparently retired. However, a skirmish with a German patrol resulted in the Life Guards capturing one horse and wounding three others. The following days were spent operating to the east of Ypres, with increasingly casualty lists as the month wore on.
By the 23rd October the Life Guards were dismounted and occupying newly dug trenches near Zandvoorde to the south-east of Ypres and were heavily shelled for the following two days resulting in casualties. During the following days the men were withdrawn from the line and billeted in Klein Zillebeke, but were back in the front line on 27th October along with the 2nd Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards, forming the 7th Cavalry Brigade. The Brigade was due for relief on 29th October but reserves were needed elsewhere in the increasingly desperate efforts to hold the line against potentially overwhelming German numbers.
At 6.00am on 30th October a heavy bombardment of the Brigade’s trenches began and was followed by an infantry assault at 7.30am. The 1st Life Guards War Diary states that, ‘this attack proved successful owing to greatly superior numbers. Regiment retired in good order about 10am except C Squadron on left flank from which only about ten men got back’. However these words disguise the true nature of the fighting in which isolated groups of men from the Brigade held their positions to the last man. Casualties from the 1st Life Guards alone totalled more than 100 killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner. Trooper Harry Streeter was reported as missing. However, documents held by the International Red Cross suggest he was actually wounded and taken prisoner, this information based on an interview with a survivor of the fighting at Zandvoorde, Trooper F. P. Scott, ‘A’ Squadron, 1st Life Guards. The Red Cross could find no record of Harry reaching a prisoner-or-war camp, and it must be concluded that either Trooper Scott was mistaken, or that Trooper Streeter died shortly after being taken prisoner, either from his wounds or at the hands of his captors. He was 30 years old at the time of his death.
Part of the site of the Brigade’s action of 30th October is marked by The Household Cavalry Memorial, located on the exact spot that Lord Charles Sackville Pelham Worsley, who commanded the Royal Horse Guards Machine Gun section was buried by the Germans, close to where his body was found after the battle. Lord Worsley’s remains were exhumed and reburied in Ypres Town Cemetery Extension before the construction of the memorial, which was unveiled in 1924 and bears the names of the 296 cavalrymen from 1st and 2nd Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards killed during the fighting of 1914, many in or around the Zandvoorde position.
On 21st January 1916, a letter was written from the War Office to the Officer Commanding 1st Life Guards, Hyde Park stating that Trooper Streeter should ‘be regarded for official purpose as having died on or since the 30th October 1914’. It goes on to say that the next-of-kin should be informed on Army Form B. 104-82A. Samuel Streeter, who was living in Sunnyside Cottages, Newick by that time, must then have received the unwelcome news about his son, having previously been advised that he had been posted as missing.
Trooper Streeter has no known grave, but is commemorated in a number of locations, locally both on the church and school plaques and at The Green, the village Roll of Honour and Book of Remembrance, in the Book of Remembrance in the Garrison Church of Holy Trinity, Windsor, on the Household Cavalry Memorial at Zandvoorde close to where he fell, and also on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, where his name is recorded on Addendum Panel 58. The exact circumstances that led to his name being originally missed from the Memorial (with two other Life Guard troopers) are unclear and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission hold no records that cast any light on the reasons for the initial omission.
Harry’s file contains no post-war correspondence, and it remains unclear where his medals were sent as Samuel Streeter, his stated next–of-kin died in March 1918 before they were issued (Harry’s mother died in 1902). His records show that he was awarded the 1914 Star and Bar (awarded to those men who came under enemy fire between 5th August and 22nd November 1914), the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
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