Harrie Stephen Harwood GC (AM exchanger)

b. 10/07/1884 Whitwell, Yorkshire. d. 13/11/1975 Bullingdon, Oxfordshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 03/01/1916 St Omer, France.

Harrie Stephen Harwood (1884-1975) was born on 10th July 1884 in Whitwell-on-the-Hill, Yorkshire, the son of William John Harwood and his wife, Sarah (nee Inskip). His father was a headmaster, and Harrie and his sister and brother attended their father’s school in Whitbourne in Worcestershire to which the family had moved when Harrie was four. Sadly, his elder sister, Elizabeth had died just prior to the move. Harrie’s secondary education was at Worcester Grammar School while his elder brother attended King’s School as there was only enough money to send one son to private school.

Harrie S Harwood GC

Harrie started work at the age of 16 for the North Staffordshire Railway Company as a trainee in the accounts department and at about the same time went, as a companion, to live with his maiden aunt in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

On the outbreak of World War One, he joined up as a despatch rider in the Royal Flying Corps. He then became an First Class Air Mechanic on the Western Front. On 3rd January 1916 at St Omer, France, a fire broke out inside a large bomb store. The store contained nearly 2000 high explosive bombs and some incendiary bombs which were burning freely. Major Newell at once took all necessary precautions, and then, assisted by Air Mechanic Alfred Simms, poured water into the store through a hole made by the fire. He sent for the store key, and with Harewood, Simms and Corporal Henry Hearne entered the store and succeeded in putting out the fire. The wooden cases containing the bombs were burnt and some of them were charred to a cinder.

Harrie Harwood, Alfred Simms, and Henry Hearne were all awarded the Albert Medal for their gallantry. Cyril Newall was awarded the Albert Medal in Gold.  In the autumn of 1916, Harrie became an Observer, and on returning to England, he was commissioned on 6th March 1917. He began the process of learning to fly at Sledgeford. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 24th November 1918, before he was transferred to the Unemployed List on 31st October 1919.

In 1922, when his aunt passed away, he married Gladys Godwin whom he had known all his life (she was nine years his junior) and they soon had two children, Marjory and Stephen. Harrie then returned to work for the railways. However, later that year, an amalgamation of the railways had taken place and he found himself working for London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) in Manchester while the family lived in Eccles. In 1934, when the office moved to London and his job was at LMS HQ he was moved to Watford, this time with the family.

In 1940, he was posted to Ipswich as a Recruiting Officer while the family stayed in Watford. Later in the war, he was posted to Norwich in a similar role, then towards the end of the war to Kirkham in Lancashire as Railway Transport Officer for the RAF though he had already reached the LMS retirement age. After he was demobbed in 1947 as a Flight Lieutenant, he returned home to Watford, remaining there as a now “fully retired” member of society until his eventual move to Didcot, Oxfordshire in 1962 where he took part fully in his main hobby of photography. He was also a Freeman being a Brother of the Etruscan Lodge in Stoke on Trent.

In 1971, a change of the Royal Warrant saw the offer of an exchange of his Albert Medal to a George Cross. Sadly, of the four men awarded the medal for their actions at St Omer, only Harrie was still alive. He chose to exchange his medal, and donated his Albert Medal to the Etruscan Lodge, Masonic Hall, Shelton, near Stoke on Trent. Harrie only held the George Cross for a little over three years, passing away after a long illness, aged 91, on 13th November 1975. He was cremated at Oxford Crematorium, Headington, Oxford, and his ashes were interred in Rosebush No 37, Crescent 6. His wife is also interred there. Harrie’s medals including the GC, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, and War Medal 1939-45 are held in the Harwood family.






Allan Stanistreet – Image of Harrie Harwood GC.