b. 25/11/1881 Windsor, Berkshire. d. 05/05/1948 Wimbledon, London.
Henry “Harry” Greenwood (1881-1948) was born on 25th November 1881 in Victoria Barracks, Windsor Castle, England, where his father was serving with the Grenadier Guards. He was the eldest of nine children born to Charles Greenwood of Nottingham and Margaret Abernethy, who hailed from County Tipperary, Ireland.
He served as an officer in the South African War of 1899-1901, then went into business, but remained with the Territorial Army. In 1909, he married Helena Anderson of Newcastle; they had two daughters. When the First World War broke out, he rejoined the Army from the reserve of officers and was appointed to the 9th. battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Infantry.
In January 1916, he was awarded the Military Cross for his actions on 26th September 1915 near Hill 70, Loos, France. There was no citation for his actions. In July 1918, he was awarded the DSO for devotion to duty during two heavy attacks, made under cover of mist, which were repulsed, but a hostile machine-gun detachment which succeeded in getting within 50 yards of the line suffered the troops severely and an officer and two men ran back to cover. The battalion being very short of machine gunners owing to casualties, Greenwood, with an NCO rushed out with greatest daring, found an officer and men hiding in a hollow with a heavy machine-gun, and made them carry it back, being all the time under intense fire. The gun was used later on the enemy with great effect.
On 23rd October 1918 at Ovillers, France, when the advance of the battalion was checked by enemy machine gun fire, Lieutenant-Colonel Greenwood single-handedly rushed the position and killed the crew. Subsequently, accompanied by two runners, he took another machine-gun post, but then found that his command was almost surrounded by the enemy, who started to attack. Repulsing this attack, the colonel led his troops forward, capturing the last objective with 150 prisoners, eight machine guns, and one field gun. On 24th October he again inspired his men to such a degree that the last objective was captured and the line held in spite of heavy casualties.
For his actions at Ovillers, he was awarded the VC (London Gazette, 26th December 1918), and was also awarded a Bar to his DSO (London Gazette, 2nd December 1918) for conspicuous gallantry during an attack. Although ill, Greenwood refused to leave his battalion and led the first line to the attack, and after being injured by the bursting of a shell captured the first objective. On reaching the second objective he organised his battalion and another, and took up a defensive position from which he beat off two enemy counter-attacks and held his ground until relieved. Next day, when the advance was held up by very heavy machine-gun fire, he made daring reconnaissance, with the result that he succeeded in getting round the enemy’s flank. Throughout he set a splendid example of pluck and devotion to duty to all ranks.
Harry Greenwood was invested with the Victoria Cross, and the Bar to his DSO, by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 8th May 1919. In 1919, Lt. Col. Greenwood retired from the Army, having been wounded thrice and mentioned in despatches thrice, and resumed his career as a company director, but served with the Pioneer Corpos during the Second World War. For his service in the Second World War, he was awarded the OBE in 1944.
He died at his house, 77 Home Park Road, in Wimbledon, South London on 5th May 1948, and was buried in Putney Vale Cemetery. His medal group comparising of the VC, DSO and Bar, OBE, MC, Queens South Africa Medal 1899-1902 with four clasps, King’s South Africa Medal 1902 with two clasps, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, King George V Silver Jubilee Medal 1935 and King George VI Coronation Medal 1937. At a small ceremony held in Doncaster on the 17th July 2002, the family of Lieutenant Colonel Harry Greenwood donated his Victoria Cross medal group to the Regimental Museum of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in Doncaster.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: KING’S OWN YORKSHIRE MUSEUM, DONCASTER.
BURIAL PLACE: PUTNEY VALE CEMETERY, LONDON.
BLOCK N, GRAVE 71-C
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Plan of Putney Vale Cemetery.
Terry Hissey – Image of the Greenwood VC Group at KOYLI Museum, Doncaster.