680395 DVR. W. HARKER. R.F.A.
William (Willie) Harker was born in Chorley in May 1892 and baptised at Chorley St Peter on 26 June. His father was William Harker (b. 1857 in Bamber Bridge), a restaurant and coffee shop owner. His mother was Ellen Woods (b. 1858 in Chorley). William and Ellen were married in 1876. I think they had 11 children in all but at least four died in infancy. The survivors were: George (b. 1878), Norman (b. 1882), James (b. 1884), Janet (b. 1885), Maggie (b. 1889), then Willie, and Esther (b. 1894). They had another son, Harry, in 1895 but he died within a matter of months, and Ellen died around the same time, probably as a result of complications with the birth. William married again later that year. His second wife was Ellen Alty (b. 1858 in Chorley). At that time, the family was still living in Chorley but by 1901, they had moved to Preston, where William and Ellen ran a restaurant at 36 Church Street. In 1901, William and Ellen had a daughter, Ellen, but then William died later the same year. In 1911, Ellen was running the restaurant and living over the shop. In the household were her daughter Ellen and four of her step children: Norman was a waiter, Maggie a waitress, Willie was a wholesale grocer’s assistant and Esther was a book-keeper.
Willie enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery on 11 September 1914. He was given service number 1536 and posted to “A” Battery of 276 Brigade. His service number was later changed to 680395. He landed with 55th Division in France on 29 September 1915. He was granted 10 days home leave over Christmas 1916. He spent a few days in hospital in France suffering from flu from 21-24 May 1918 but was soon able to rejoin his Brigade. He was again granted home furlough for 10 days, from 28 July 1918, but this was then extended ‘for urgent private affairs’ until 29 August 1918. (This was around the time his brother, Norman, died, see below.) He then returned to his Brigade and was finally disembodied on 18 March 1919.
After the War, Willie returned to 36 Church Street and went back to work as a grocer but he was diagnosed as suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis on 17 April 1919, and he died from the condition on 23 July 1919. He was 27 years old. His brother-in-law, Charles Mott, was present at the death. [The military records show his date of death as 31 July but his death certificate says 23 July; it appears the military recorded his date of death as the end of the quarter in which he died for pension purposes].
Service No: 680395
Date of Death: 23/07/1919
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “A” Bty, 276th Bde.
Grave Reference: 501
Cemetery: PENWORTHAM (ST. MARY) CHURCHYARD
Present at Willie’s death was his brother-in-law, Charles Edwin Mott. Charles was married to Willie’s sister, Janet. Charles was born in London on 6 January 1882 and he was a career soldier. He joined the Royal Field Artillery when he was 18, in 1900. He and Janet were married in Preston in 1910 and the next year, Charles was posted to Kildare in Ireland. He was promoted to Battery Sergeant-Major. His service number was 12610 but I don’t know which Battery he was attached to, but he landed in France on 16 August 1914. He was commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant on 19 May 1918. The record of his commission says that he had been promoted for service in the Field and that he had previously been awarded the Military Medal. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in February 1917. (I haven’t found a record for the MM although I have found one for the MSM, so these may have become conflated). After the War, he came back to Preston, where he died on 30 November 1928, aged 46.
Willie’s brother Norman also served in the Army. Norman was born in Preston on 25 November 1882 and baptised at Preston St John on 24 December that year. In 1913, he married Annie Hall (b. Preston in 1883). So Norman was 31 when War broke out and it appears he first enlisted in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, with service number 25998. But he was later transferred to the Army Service Corps and the Royal Army Pay Corps, with service number 8416. He was promoted to Corporal. However, Norman served at home and was not posted abroad. He died of pneumonia and heart failure at Fulwood Military Hospital on 7 July 1918. He was 35 years old. You will remember that Willie came home on leave three weeks later on 28 July.
Service No: 8416
Date of Death: 07/07/1918
Regiment/Service: Army Pay Corps
Grave Reference: 502
Cemetery: PENWORTHAM (ST. MARY) CHURCHYARD
Additional Information: Son of William and Ellen Harker; husband of Annie Harker, of 1 Cromwell Road, Cop Lane, Penwortham. Born at Preston.