b. 19/09/1888 Herne Bay, Kent. d. 25/09/1915 Le Rutoire, Loos, France
Harry Wells (1888-1915) was born at Millbank, near Hoath, Herne Bay, Kent on 19th September 1888. His father, Samuel, was a bricklayer’s labourer. His mother was Emma Elizabeth nee Rose. His parents married on 14th March 1885 in Herne Bay. Emma had a child before marrying Samuel, a daughter, Olive Gertrude Rose, born in 1881. After their marriage, they had five children, including Harry.
Harry was educated at Hoath School. He left at the age of 12 and was employed at Ridgeway Farm, Herrne, where he lost two fingers in an accident with a haymaking machine. He worked later for Mrs Wootton at Herne Mill, before enlisting into 2nd Royal Sussex on 25th October 1904. He served most of his time as a battalion signaller and earned two Good Conduct Badges before transferring to the Reserve on 30th June 1911 from the Curragh, Ireland. On 29th July 1911, Harry became a Kent County Constabulary policeman in Ashford, living at Ridley Villas, Herne Street, Herne Mill until he moved to Farmingham. Having resigned on 13th December 1913, he worked and lived at the Beaver Inn in Ashford.
Harry was discharged from the Reserve on 30th June 1913, but was recalled on the outbreak of war in August 1914. He was sent to France on 12th August 1914. Not much was known about his early exploits in the war, before the incident which would lead to his posthumous VC action.
On 25th September 1915 near Le Rutoire, Loos, France, when the platoon officer had been killed, Sergeant Wells took command and led his men forward to within 15 yards of the German wire. Nearly half the platoon were killed or wounded and the remainder were much shaken but Sergeant Wells rallied them and led them on. Finally, when very few were left, he stood up and urged them forward once again and while doing this he was killed.
Harry was buried in Dud Corner Cemetery, Loos, and as he was never married, his VC was presented to his mother by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 29th November 1916. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His medals were later presented to the Regiment by sister-in-law and are held by the Royal Sussex Regiment Museum, Eastbourne, Sussex.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: EASTBOURNE REDOUBT MUSEUM, EASTBOURNE
BURIAL PLACE: DUD CORNER CEMETERY, LE ROTOIRE, FRANCE.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT V, ROW E, GRAVE 2
St Martins Church, Herne Bay, Kent
Herne Bay War Memorial
Courtesy of Terry Hissey