Harry Desborough, Private 60227, Machine Gun Corps, formerly 45580, Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 24th October 1918 in France, aged 29
Harry Desborough was born in 1889 at Woodborough, Nottinghamshire, the third son of Mary Jane and Samuel Desborough, a stocking frame knitter of Woodborough.
In 1891, one-year-old Harry (listed as Henry) was living at Lee’s Yard, off Main Street, Woodborough with his parents and brothers Walter (6) and Charles (4). By 1901 the family had moved to nearby Southern’s Row and included another child, John (5).
In 1907, Harry moved to Macclesfield to work as a hand silk tie knitter for Messrs Josiah Smales and Sons, and two years later he married Frances Bertha Walthall in Macclesfield. In 1911 the couple were living at 81 Pitt Street, Macclesfield; they later had a daughter, born in 1914.
Before joining the Army, Harry was the choir leader and bandmaster at the Bethel Baptist Chapel, Macclesfield.
Harry enlisted in August 1916 at Macclesfield and was drafted to France the following December, where he was killed in action on 24th October 1918, aged 29 years. Harry left a widow and a four year old daughter.
Private Desborough’s obituary was printed in the Macclesfield Times on 15 November 1918:
PTE H DESBOROUGH, whose wife lives at 81 Pitt Street, Macclesfield, has been killed in action. Deceased, who for some time was band-master and choir-leader at Bethel Baptist Church (which offices he ably and faithfully filled) came from Woodborough, Nottingham, eleven years ago, to be employed as a silk tie knitter to Messrs Josiah Smale and Son. He was 29 years of age, and leaves a daughter four years old. Joining the Army in August 1916, he was drafted to France in the following December. Writing to the widow, his officer says: “Your husband has been in my section for some time, and I have always found him a cheerful and willing worker in all circumstances. He was a most God-fearing man and by his mode of life set an example to the whole section. Mine is a loss that I am afraid will never be made good as he was the most popular man in the whole company. He was killed by a shell on the morning of October 25th, while doing sentry duty over a gun. The whole section join with me in tendering to you our sincerest sympathy in your bereavement.”
Mr Desborough will be greatly missed by the minister, officers and members at Bethel, where he will ever be remembered for his works of faith and labours of love. His younger brother, Jack, fell in action two years ago.
It is interesting to note that some time after Harry’s death, the address provided for his widow Bertha is 168 High Street, Macclesfield – the home of Euphemia and George Bailey, who died in April 1921. Euphemia and Bertha were sisters and probably decided, after the deaths of their husbands, to live together in the property which was once their childhood home.
Private Harry Desborough is buried in Grave Ref. V.C.7. at Romeries Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Harry Desborough, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
The floral tributes laid when the Macclesfield Park Green War Memorial was unveiled on 21st September 1921 included one with the words “In loving memory of Harry Desborough, from wife and daughter.”
Elsewhere, Private Harry Desborough is commemorated on the Woodborough War Memorial.
Brother of John Thomas (Jack) Desborough, who moved from Woodborough to Leek in Staffordshire, served with the 7th Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was killed in action on 25th October 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. Brother-in-law of George Bailey, who served as Sgt 2070 with the 7th Cheshire Regt and died at his home on 10 April 1921.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births, Marriages
Census (England & Wales): 1891, 1901, 1911
Lives of the First World War website
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Macclesfield Times: 15 November 1918
With grateful thanks to Mr Craig Smith for the use of his family photographs, memorabilia and information.