Harry Calvert, Private 15/170, 1st Leeds Pals
John William Calvert, Private 15/171, 1st Leeds Pals
On 4th September 1914 Harry Calvert volunteered for the Leeds Pals, the first of the surnames beginning with ‘C’. The following day, at least according to the list of applicants, his brother John also volunteered. As a result when the list was drawn up, in alphabetical order, Harry came first, with the number 170, and John William followed with 171, even though he was two years older. They were the youngest sons of Edward Johnson Calvert and Mary Walker, who had married in Wharfedale in 1874. Edward was given as a gardener on the censuses, as a jobbing gardener by 1911, which possibly gives the lie to claims that applicants were rejected on the grounds that their father was not a white-collar worker. By 1901 the family was living at 4 Graham Street, Burley.
Harry was born in Arthington in 1887, the youngest of five children. He had two sisters, Annie and Edith, and two brothers, John, already mentioned, and Arthur Edward, born in 1879. He had joined the RFA in 1902, as Driver 24838, working as a blacksmith, and was already in the reserve when the war began. Harry, meanwhile, after leaving school went to work as an accountant’s clerk, but by 1911 was a sales-man in a rubber shop. In 1914 he was 27, and wasted no time in volunteering. He was placed in D Company and worked in the Quartermaster’s stores, but sadly this was not enough to keep him safe.
John William was born in September 1884 and on finishing school became a pupil teacher, following in the footsteps of his older sister Edith, who was an assistant school teacher, which position John had reached by 1911. He had also served in the 2nd South Middlesex Rifles, a volunteer unit, for two years. When he joined the Pals his height was noted as 5ft 11ins, and he was posted to C Company, but no specific job was given. Both John and Harry will have done their basic training at Colsterdale followed by Ripon and Fovant, before sailing to Egypt in December 1915, and then to France in March 1916.
Harry’s service record has not survived, so only the basic facts are known. He was killed in action on 24th March 1918, when the Germans made their final attempt to win the war with the Kaiserschlacht, when yet again a large proportion of the Pals were killed. His body was not found and he is named on the Arras Memorial. John, however, was more fortunate. He had suffered problems with his hearing in the left ear for a number of years, though this did not stop him from passing his medical. But by the middle of 1916 the constant noise from shells and other explosions had caused inflammation in the right middle ear, with the result that he was almost deaf. A Medical Board assessed him and he was discharged as no longer physically fit for war service. He was not awarded a pension, but given a one-off gratuity payment of £41.5.0. On 26th July 1916 he was officially discharged from the army and returned to his teaching career. On the 1939 Register he was listed as living in Graham Grove, with Edith Warrington, his sister, who had married Harry Warrington in 1904 and was now housekeeper to her brother.
Sources: Find My Past – censuses, service records
Ancestry – Medal records
CWGC – details of death and memorial
Researcher: Peter Taylor
- All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
- Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.