Harry Cleaver, Private 291275, 1/7th Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 26th March 1917 in Gaza, Palestine, aged 32
Harry Cleaver was born in 1885 in Hurdsfield, the son of Sarah Ann and James Edwin Cleaver, a Silk Dyer.
By 1891 the family had moved to 29 Snow Hill, Macclesfield, and within the next ten years, the family moved to 67 Pitt Street, where James was still working as a silk dyer to support his wife and six children: Harry (15), James (10), Esther (8), Florence (6), John (3) and baby Albert, just four months old. Arthur Wright, James’ nephew and future husband of Esther, was also living there.
Harry was educated at Brunswick Centenary School and attended the Wesleyan Chapel; in early 1901 he was employed as an apprentice baker by Messrs Gee of 23 Chestergate.
In June 1901, Harry attempted to join the Militia (4th Cheshire Regiment), being given service number 4687. At that time he was employed by Mr B Arnold as a tackler at Chester Road Mill. He was described as 5 feet 1½ inches tall, weighed 99 pounds, with a 32½ inch chest. He had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and dark hair, and had three vaccination marks on his left arm. He stated that he was aged 17 years 1 month but was discharged the following month because he was found to be underage – he was actually only 16 years old.
Harry emigrated to Canada in 1906, sailing from Liverpool on the Southwark and arriving in Montreal on 6th May. He spent 9 years in Quebec as a farm hand, returning to Macclesfield in 1915 and working at the Macclesfield Corporation Gasworks.
Harry attested at Macclesfield and was drafted with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 27th November 1915. The 7th Cheshires were engaged in action with the 4th Battalion and the 1/4th Welch Regiment at the battle of Gaza on 26th and 27th March. At the start of the attack the 7th Battalion were in Divisional reserve, behind Mansura Ridge. As soon as they left the shelter of Mansura Ridge they came under heavy shrapnel fire. At 3.30 pm the 7th Battalion was thrown into the fight on the left to support the 5th Welch; they stormed the outlying portions of the citadel and the 4th Battalion captured Clay Hill. Harry was killed during the fighting on 26th March.
Harry fought alongside one of his brothers, James (Jim) Cleaver, who survived the war and returned to Macclesfield to become a coal man.
A story passed down the family is that Jim buried Harry after he was killed (before he was reburied in the official Commonwealth War Graves cemetery).
Harry’s death was reported in the Macclesfield Times of 13 April 1917.
Brother of John Thomas Cleaver, who served as Private 352525 in the 2/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment and died of wounds on 4th August 1917 in Le Tréport, France; and of James Cleaver, who served alongside Harry as Private 290967 in the 7th Cheshire Regiment and survived the war.
Thanks to Janet, great niece of Harry Cleaver, for her assistance in compiling this information.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
Census (England & Wales): 1891, 1901
WWI British Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects
WWI British Army Medal Rolls Index Cards
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Macclesfield Times: 13 April 1917