Our People - Harry Heyes DCM
24 February 1917
#7250 Company Sergeant Major Harry Heyes DCM
2nd Battalion, Scots Guards
3rd Guards Brigade, Guards Division
Died of wounds 24 February 1917
La Neuville Communal Cemetery, Corbie, Somme, France. Ref: B.79
Harry Heyes was a professional who enlisted before the start of the war, a dedicated soldier and non commissioned officer, whose actions at Festubert would earn him the distinction of the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).
Born Henry Heyes in Preston in 1889 to John and Margaret Ann Heyes, by 1901 Harry was living with his grandparents in the St. Ambrose area of Leyland. It is likely that he joined the Scots Guards by 1911.
Harry saw much action with the 2nd Scots Guards while in France and Flanders, becoming a specialist bomber. The 2nd landed in France on 7 October 1914 as part of the 20th Guards Brigade. The 2nd first saw action at First Ypres that November and went on to fight at the Battles of Neuve Chapelle (10-13 March 1915), Aubers (9 May 1915) and Festubert, where Harry’s actions earned him the epithet “Daredevil” and saw him awarded the DCM, second only to the Victoria Cross in terms of prestige. The citation in the London Gazette dated 24 August 1915 read:
For great gallantry and ability on the 16th-18th May, 1915, at Festubert, when, after two Officers in charge of the bomb throwers had been wounded, he carried on the work with great skill and courage, and managed to capture 250 yards of German trench which he held.
A grand reception was held at Leyland on 7 July 1915 where Harry was feted and gave speeches encouraging the men of the town to go out and “avenge the Leyland soldiers who were now below the soil”. Also present was Harry’s fiancée Hetty Elizabeth Wiles who he would later marry at St. Jude’s, Kensal Green on 8 January 1916.
Harry went back out to the Western Front and the 2nd joined the 3rd Guards Brigade on 9 September 1915. He saw action with the 2nd at the Battles of Loos (25 September-8 October 1915), Fleurs-Courcelette (15-22 September 1916) and Morval (25-28 September 1916).
As part of his duties Harry instructed other men in bombing. On 24 February 1917 he was instructing a group when a bomb went off, severely wounding him. He was taken to No.21 Casualty Clearing station where he died the same day. His remains are buried at plot B.79 La Neuville Communal Cemetery, near Corbie, Somme, France. As well as the DCM, Harry was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and the Russian Cross of St. George. He also appears on the Leyland Church Road Civic War Memorial, Leyland St.Ambrose C.E. WW1 Cross and the Leyland St.Ambrose C.E. WW1 Plaque.
Company Sergeant-Major Harry Heyes, 2nd Scots Guards. Photograph Courtesy of Sarah Yates
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