46265 Private Harold Wilson 7th Battalion the Leicester Regiment died 14 June 1918 and is buried at Cologne Southern Cemetery, Germany.[1]  He was about 19 years old and is commemorated on the Roll of Honour, West Auckland Memorial Hall.

Family Details

Harold Wilson was born c.1899 at Cockfield the son of Joseph and Sarah Jane Wilson.  There were 6 children:[2]

  • Harold bc.1899 at Cockfield
  • Thomas bc.1901 at Cockfield
  • John bc.1904 at Cockfield
  • Annie bc.1907 at West Auckland
  • Amy bc.1908 at West Auckland
  • Joseph William bc.1910 at West Auckland

In 1901, Joseph and Sarah the family lived at Main Street, Cockfield and Joseph worked as a coal miner (hewer).  No children were recorded.[3]   In 1911, the family lived at Highland Laddie Row, Bildershaw, West Auckland.  40 year old Joseph worked as a coal miner (hewer).[4]

Military Details

Harold Wilson enlisted at Darlington and was posted to the 7th Battalion, the Leicester Regiment and given the regimental number 46265. [5]  The 7th (Service) Battalion was formed at Leicester in September 1914 as part of K2 Kitchener’s New Army and attached to the 15th (Scottish) Division and later transferred to 110th Brigade, 37th Division.  The Division landed in France 29 July 1915 and was transferred to the 21st Division in July 1916.[6]  The 110th Brigade (the Leicester Tigers Brigade”) consisted of the following units: [7]

  • 6th, the Leicester Regiment
  • 7th, the Leicester Regiment
  • 8th, the Leicester Regiment left June 1918
  • 9th, the Leicester Regiment disbanded February 1918
  • 110th Machine Gun Company moved to 21st MG Battalion February 1918
  • 110th Trench Mortar Battery
  • 1st, the Wiltshire Regiment joined June 1918

The service record of Private H. Wilson has not been researched therefore the date he enlisted, went to France and was taken POW remain unknown.[8]  In 1918, the 21st Division was hit by the Germans Spring Offensive: [9]

  • 21 – 23 March: the Battle of St. Quentin
  • 24 – 25 March: the Battle of Bapaume
  • 25 – 26 April: the Second Battle of Kemmel
  • 29 April: the Battle of Scherpenberg
  • 27 May – 6 June: the Battle of the Aisne

Private H. Wilson died 14 June 1918 and could have been captured during any of the above engagements or indeed during 1917.  He was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[10]

Burial [11]

Private H. Wilson is buried at grave reference XVI.A.38 Cologne Southern Cemetery, Germany.

More than 1,000 Allied prisoners and dozens of German servicemen were buried in Cologne Southern Cemetery during the First World War. Commonwealth forces entered Cologne on 6 December 1918, less than a month after the Armistice, and the city was occupied under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles until January 1926. During this period the cemetery was used by the occupying garrison. In 1922 it was decided that the graves of Commonwealth servicemen who had died all over Germany should be brought together into four permanent cemeteries at Kassel, Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne. Over the course of the following year, graves were transferred to Cologne Southern Cemetery from over 180 different burial grounds in Hanover, Hessen, the Rhine and Westphalia.

There are now almost 2,500 First World War servicemen buried or commemorated in the Commonwealth plots at Cologne. The Cologne Memorial, located inside the shelter building at the entrance to the Commonwealth plots, commemorates 25 British and Irish servicemen who died in Germany and who have no known grave. Of these, 19 are known to have died as prisoners but their places of burial are not recorded. The remaining six died after the Armistice by drowning and their bodies were not recovered. The Commonwealth section of the cemetery also contains over 130 Second World War graves, mostly those of servicemen who died with the occupying forces. There are, in addition, 676 non-war graves and 29 burials of other nationalities.

Commonwealth Prisoners of War in Germany during the First World War

Between the outbreak of war in August 1914 and the Armistice of November 1918, the German forces captured almost 300,000 Commonwealth servicemen on the Western Front. Approximately one third of these prisoners were held in German occupied territory in France and Belgium, but most were transported to camps located throughout Germany. In common with the other belligerent states, Germany was poorly equipped to house, feed and clothe large numbers of enemy troops, but prisoners of war had been granted certain rights under international agreements established at Geneva in 1864 and at The Hague in 1899 and 1907. The Red Cross also monitored conditions in the camps and ensured that food, clothing, and personal correspondence sent from Britain was safely delivered to prisoners. In June 1917, and again in July 1918, the British and German governments agreed to exchange prisoners who were too badly wounded to fight again, and hundreds of prisoners were repatriated through the Netherlands. Finally, the fear that the thousands of German prisoners in Britain and France would be mistreated in retaliation meant that Allied POWs often enjoyed quite humane treatment. This was especially the case for officer prisoners, who were segregated into separate camps and not forced to work.

Despite these various checks on the mistreatment of prisoners, conditions in German camps varied widely and as many as 12,000 Commonwealth servicemen died in captivity. Some of these men were badly wounded when taken prisoner and died shortly after arriving in Germany. Some prisoners also died as a result of violence perpetrated by their captors, but although violence was common, particularly during the first year of the war, the killing of prisoners was rare. Non-commissioned officers and privates were often forced to work and some died of exhaustion or accidents while labouring in coalmines, stone quarries or steel works. Yet by far the most common cause of prisoner death in wartime Germany was disease. Prisoners weakened by wounds, poor diet, or fatigue were particularly susceptible to the effects of disease and an outbreak of typhus in 1915 and the influenza epidemic of 1918 had a devastating effect on the Allied prisoner population.


Private Harold Wilson is commemorated on the Roll of Honour, West Auckland Memorial Hall.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission Note: He is recorded as R. Wilson not H. Wilson

[2] 1911 census

[3] 1910 census

[4] 1911 census

[5] Soldiers Died in the Great War & Medal Roll

[6] http://www.1914-1918.net/leicesters.htm

[7] http://www.1914-1918.net/21div.htm

[8] Red Cross Geneva, Switzerland hold WW1 POW details

[9] www.1914-1918.net/21div.htm & http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1918_pt1.htm

[10] Medal Roll

[11] CWGC