405618 L/Cpl. Harold Henderson MM was born in Goole, Yorkshire, England, on 21st November, 1892, the son of a drysalter, wholesaler, shop owner and hackney cab horse trainer - Fred Henderson and his wife Margaret.

Emigrating to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1913, Harold, then a carpenter by trade, attested into the 35th Battalion, in Niagara, on 15th June 1915. In total 47 men were transferred from the 35th Battalion to the 4th CMR through 1916. Harold was one of those.

Embarking on SS Hesperian for Plymouth, England, on 27th July 1915, the 4th CMR, after extensive training embarked for France, from Folkestone, on 24th October 1915, and arrived in the area of the front line around Ypres, Belgium, on the 26th.

It was during the 'Battle for Mount Sorrel' that Harold was taken prisoner. In his own words;

"I was captured at Ypres on the 2nd June 1916, and was unwounded. On this date I was with my company (B Coy.) in the second-line trenches at Ypres. A and C companies were in the first-line trenches, and B and D were the supports in the second-line trenches. There was a tunnel leading to the rear from the support trenches.

When the bombardment started we were ordered into this tunnel [The Tunnel], and about 80 of us got into it. At about 12:45 in the afternoon a message came through that the Germans were attacking, and we were ordered into the front-line trenches. The end of the tunnel nearest the front lines had been blown in by a shell, and we were told to get out at the other end and go up to the front lines. About seven men got out at the rear end of the tunnel, but they were killed as they got out into the open, and before any more men could get out the rear end of the tunnel was blocked by another shell, so we were unable to get out. Our Colonel, who was with us in the tunnel, said that he would wait and see if there was a counter attack. The air became exhausted in the tunnel, and we first had to kneel down and then to lie down in it.

We were unable to unblock the tunnel, but the Germans were digging into it from the top, and we were forced to surrender. General Mercer was with us and was alive in the tunnel, but the Colonel told us the next morning that he had died in the night. He (the Colonel) was among the prisoners taken on this occasion. The Colonel gave us orders to destroy all information in our pockets before surrendering. I did not, previous to my capture, witness any case of infraction by the enemy of the laws and usages of war.

On being captured, we were marched behind the enemy's lines about a mile and a half and were then examined, our pockets being gone through. The wounded men were removed to another place. We had a few wounded with us, but they were only slightly wounded and were well able to walk. They allowed us to carry out our more severely-wounded cases, and we also carried the German wounded.

We were then taken to the nearest village and were put in a big church. There were about 150 of us. There were men of the Princess Patricia's Light Infantry, 5th Mounted Rifles, and 1st Mounted Rifles, as well as of the 4th. When they got us to the church the first thing that they did was to call all those who were wounded for dressing, they dressed their wounds in the church. The dressing was done by German doctors. As far as I could see, the dressing was well done. They gave us some bread and a drink of cocoa. This was probably about 4 o'clock. We slept in the church that night on the floor, without straw or any other bedding. About 9 o'clock the next morning we were marched off to another village some little way back about 5 or 6 miles, I think. I do not know the name of the village, but it had a station. We were then put in box cars on the railway and taken to Dülmen."

Arriving in Camp 3, in Dülmen, Germany, on 4th June, 1916, Harold was subsequently reported missing in action on 7th June, 1916, and his family told so in a letter signed by 4 CMR's Major M. Gordon, dated that day.

Then sent to Duisburg POW camp with a 'working commando' to do building work in July 1916, he was further transferred, on 3rd January, 1917, to Münster POW camp for failing to carry out 'finishing work' at Duisburg.

From 10th January to 13th July, 1917, he was made to work in stone quarries loading wagons at Neu Beckum.

Harold then escaped from Neu Beckum on 17th July, 1917, with two co-prisoners: Pte. Ralph Dusenbury, a Canadian of the 21st Battalion, CEF, and Pte. E. L. Weatherhead, an American serving with Royal Scots Fusiliers.

Harold arrived back in England after 18 days, having travelled on foot for approximately 80 miles (130km), from Neu Beckum via Warendorf and Telgte in Germany to the Dutch border and then a further 100 miles (160km) to Rotterdam in Holland.

Harold and his fellows underwent an official War Department debrief regarding their respective POW experiences on 9th August, 1917 and then they were interviewed by the Press in London on the 10th. He returned to Toronto, Canada, at the end of 1917.

In consequence of being an escaped POW, Harold was discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 15th December, 1917 and joined No.2 Detachment Canadian Military Police Corps.

At some point in 1918, in recognition of being taken prisoner, his escape and his return, Harold received a hand written letter from King George V, welcoming him back from "the miseries and hardships, which you have endured with so much patience and courage."

Discharged from the Corps on 12th May, 1919, Harold Henderson was recipient of a Military Medal following a citation written by Lt. Col. H. D. Lockhart Gordon DSO in August 1919, which was sent to the G.O.C. No. 2 Military District [Toronto – then commanded by Brig.-Gen. J Gunn], for due action as the G.O.C. saw fit.

On his return to Canada, Harold married Margaret Dickson (a Scottish émigré) and continued to live at 284 Pape Avenue, Toronto, prior to returning to Goole, Yorkshire, England in 1919. Back in Goole, Harold supported by his father became a successful warehouse owner, wholesale grocer and confectionery retailer. Alas, both Harold and his wife, Margaret, died at young ages - Margaret in 1937 aged 45, and Harold in 1939 aged 47.

Biography and image credit: David Kershaw, with thanks.