Rifleman, London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles), 1st/9th Bn.
Service no. 4746
Killed in action on 1 July 1916, aged XX
Remembered at Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France, at Sandwich War Memorial and on a now lost wooden war crucifix outside St Anne’s Church, South Lambeth Road
Chris Burge writes:
Harold Measday Snelling was born in Ramsgate, Kent in 1898, the third child of Frederick and Ellen Sophia (née Rogers) Snelling. In the 1901 census, Frederick worked as a baker and confectioner from premises at 15 King Street in the centre of Ramsgate, two doors from the Prince Albert public house. Ellen’s younger sister Rose Rogers assisted with the business as did a journeyman baker and his sister.
By 1911 the Snelling family had moved to the more genteel surroundings of the market town of Sandwich, where Frederick ran his bakery from 9 The Cattle Market, in the heart of of the town. Frederick and Ellen were now 43 and had been married 20 years. Frederick listed his three children (one had died) in age order on his 1911 census return: Winifred, 19; Frederick John, 16; Harold, 13. He added Annie Lilian Rogers, his wife’s younger sister, as a visitor. Ellen, Winifred and Frederick John all worked in the business. The family were the sole occupants of the five-room property.
According to the 1911 census returns, Ellen managed to be in two places at once on census day. She also appeared as a visitor on the return of Frederick’s brother, Charles Henry Snelling, whose family were living at 154 Glengall Road, Peckham. Frederick William and William Thomas were two of Charles Henry Snelling’s six children.
Charles Henry Snelling and family moved to 260 South Lambeth Road around 1914 at which time Harold Snelling seemed to be living with his uncle and working in London. Harold was baptised as an adult at St Anne’s, South Lambeth, on 22 December 1914. His cousin Frederick William Snelling, a civil service clerk, had volunteered at the beginning of the war. Harold volunteered around May 1915 in Central London joining the Queen Victoria’s Rifles. He was drafted to the 1st/9th Battalion in France on 30 March 1916, joining the battalion in a group of 38 men. The QVR were out of the line for most of March, April and until they moved to Hebuterne, south of Gommecourt, at the end of May. They suffered numerous casualties in the front line until the final week of June when the QVR were digging service and assembly trenches in preparation for the beginning of the Somme offensive. On 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the QVR were part of the ill-fated diversionary attack at the northern extreme of the Somme sector at Gommecourt. The battalion suffered horrendous casualties in one day’s fighting. Among the officers six were killed, five were wounded and five missing; in other ranks 51 were killed, 290 wounded and 188 missing; a total of 16 officers and 529 men. Harold Measday Snelling, an acting corporal at the time, was posted missing on this day .
An article appeared in the Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury on 26 August 1916, entitled, ‘SANDWICH LAD MISSING’:
‘The following appears in the “St Anne’s (South Lambeth) Parish Magazine’ for August regarding the youngest son of Mr. Frank Snelling, baker, of the Cattle Market, Sandwich, who was recently announced missing:- “News reaches us that Harold Snelling. A member of our choir and A.S.M of our scouts, has been posted missing since July 1. He was in the Queen Victoria Rifles somewhere in France. We fear there is not much hope of his having been saved. It is just possible that he may be a prisoner of war, but confess it is unlikely. We are very sorry, and yet not a little proud. He was one of those people who do not talk a lot, but put a lot of reality into anything they undertake. Not least did Harold count his faith in Jesus Christ, and so we confidently believe he is all right where-ever he is.’
In the course of time, Harold Measday Snelling was officially presumed to have died on, or since, 1 July 1916. His cousin Frederick William Snelling was killed on the Somme on 18 September 1916 and another cousin, William Thomas Snelling, was killed in 1917 during 3rd Ypres.