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MEMORIAL DAY IN BELGIUM: WEEKEND OF 25-30 MAY 2017

PRIVATE FIRST CLASS HARRY ARTHUR KING

Troop F, 3rd Cavalry

Pfc. Harry King was a native of Wichnar Park in Staffordshire England.  His parents were John and Susan King, and they lived at 65 Belgrave Road, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent.  Harry had four brothers (Ernest, George, Reginald, and Lewis) and three sisters (Eva, Alice and Elian.) In 1908, Harry’s brother Ernest emigrated to America in search of a better life.  Harry and his brothers Reginald and George followed Ernest to America in 1914.  That proved to be a fateful year for the family when their died and the First World War broke out.  Reginald returned to England late that year and joined the British army.  He served as a private in a mechanical transport unit of the Army Service Corps.  Lewis, the only brother who had remained in England, likewise joined the British army and was eventually assigned to the Tank Corps.  George went north from America and joined the Canadian army.  Harry stayed in America and enlisted in the United States Cavalry.  By 1917, four of the five King brothers were under arms for the Allies, but serving in the armies of three different countries. 


Harry was assigned to the 3rd United States Cavalry’s F Troop.  When America entered the war in 1917, the Third Cavalry was one of the few standing forces the United States had available.  Consequently, it was one of the earlier units to be sent to Europe, arriving in France in November of 1917.  Although horse-mounted cavalry was useless in the trenches of the First World War, horses did play a crucial role in transporting supplies, weapons, and ammunition to the front.  The 3rd Cavalry spent the war taking care of those horses and resupplying the front line troops.  Harry’s F Troop ran a remount depot for quartermaster and artillery units near Bourbonne-les-Bains in the Haute Marne region of France.   


The Western Front was a dangerous place, even for those who did not serve in combat roles.   The unsanitary conditions of the trenches were breeding places for disease.  In fact, more American soldiers were killed by disease in the First World War than were killed in combat.  Harry King became one of them when he died on 20 September 1918.  His cause of death was officially listed as bronchial pneumonia, but in fact it was the Spanish Flu, a disease that killed tens of millions of people between 1918 and 1920.  Harry was initially buried at the Argonne American cemetery at Romange-sous-Montfaucon.

  

Harry’s mother Susan initially requested that his remains be sent to England to be buried beside his father at Checkley.   However, Harry’s brother Reggie had died near Ieper on 17 October 1917, and was buried in the Lijssenthoek Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.  Unlike the practice in the US Army, the remains of soldiers who died in the service of the British Empire could not be repatriated.  When Mrs. King learned that Lijssenthoek was to be her son Reggie’s final resting place, she changed her mind about her son Harry’s burial.  She requested that Harry be buried near his brother Reggie at Lijssenthoek.  His remains were moved to Lijssenthoek in October of 1921.  


Harry's brothers Lewis and George survived the war, and George later owned a tailor shop in New York City. Mrs. King had the following inscription carved into Harry’s tombstone:  "Best of Sons and Brothers, Also Reggie Buried Close By.” Back in Staffordshire, Harry and Reggie’s names are forever commemorated on a war memorial plaque on the outside the wall of The Resurrection’s Church.  

   

 


Jerome Sheridan wrote the story above, drawing on the following sources:

  • The IDPF of Private First Class Harry King
  • Harry King’s biography in the book De Soldaten van de Amerikaanse Militaire Begraafplaats Flanders Field by Patrick Lernout and Christopher Sims (Groeninghe Kortrijk, 2011.)  The photograph of Harry King likewise comes from this book.  
  • Various histories of the First World War

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