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  • Claire Jordan

Harry Tawney

On the first morning of the Battle of the Somme, 1916, Sgt Harry Tawney goes over the top with his men of 22nd Manchesters close to Mametz.

After seeing a soldier he sent to ascertain the situation hit almost immediately, he decided he must do everything himself rather than risk another man’s life.

It was around this time that he was hit in the chest and abdomen by enemy bullets and fell helplessly back into the churning earth of No Man’s Land.

Harry later wrote: "I raised my knees to ease my pain in my stomach, and at once bullets came over. So I put them down.

Not that I much minded dying now. By a merciful arrangement, when one’s half dead, the extra plunge does not seem very terrible. I began to shout feebly for stretcher bearers. I’d lost my self-­respect.”

He must also have lost consciousness, for the next thing he remembered: “It was a lovely evening, and a man stood beside me.

I caught him by his ankle, in terror lest he should vanish.

In answer to his shouts, a doctor came and looked at me.

Then, promising to return in a minute, they went off to attend to someone else.

That was the worst moment I had.

I thought they were deceiving me. That they were leaving me for good. I began to whimper.

But they came back, and directly the doctor spoke to his orderly, I knew he was one of the best men I had ever met.

After I had felt that divine compassion flow over me, I didn’t care.

I was like a dog kicked and bullied by everyone that’s at last found a kind master."

Harry survived.

After the War, he became an academic historian, writing many books including ‘The Attack & Other Papers’ in 1953 in which his account of 1st July 1916 was published. He was also an advocate for social change and for adult education and lived on into his 80s.

Harry really liked to Help.

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