Burntwood Family History Group
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Burntwood Family History Group
Researched and written by Mike INSKIP, Alan BETTS and Chris GRADDON
Harry PENTON was born in Norton Canes, Staffordshire on the 4th July 1896, and was the sixth child and third eldest son of 11 children (5 boys and 6 girls) born to parents Thomas PENTON and Sarah Alice PENTON (nee BARKER)
Thomas PENTON a Coal Miner from Brownhills, Staffordshire married Sarah Alice BARKER on the 26th July 1886 at the Parish Church of Saint James the Great, in Norton Canes. On marriage, Thomas was a bachelor aged 23, and Sarah was a spinster from Norton Canes, also aged 23. They were married by the curate Walter William BOULTON in the presence of John PENTON and Eliza Ann PENTON
Thomas PENTON died in Cannock aged 77 in 1939, and his wife Sarah Alice PENTON died in Cannock aged 78 in 1942
Harry is the grandfather of Michael INSKIP
Harry was baptised at the Trinity (Primitive) Methodist Church in Norton Canes on 30 July 1896 and his birth was registered at Cannock Register Office in the third quarter of 1896. Like his elder brothers, Harry attended Norton Canes Boys School
By the time of the 1901 census, he was living in Norton Canes with his parents
On the 1911 census, 2nd April, Harry was living with his parents and seven siblings at 27 St Johns Road Cannock. He was aged 15, single and working down the mine, a Motor bay driver. His father and his two older brothers Thomas PENTON and James PENTON also worked in the coal mine
(*1) Extract from the 1911 Census
Harry was the first of his family to enlist in the Army, signing up in 1913 prior to the onset of the First World War
(James his older brother enlisted the following year 1914 aged 23, and Thomas his elder brother enlisted in 1915 aged 24.)
Harry was still working in the mine when he signed up, aged just 17. He passed the medical examination, and he enlisted at Hednesford, Staffordshire with the Territorial Force on the 10th February 1913. His regimental number was 991 31933
(*2) Harry PENTON                             (*3) Harry PENTON
Harry served as a Driver (Number 1362) in the Royal Engineers 2nd North Midland Field Company
Each Driver (equivalent to Private in rank) looked after 2 horses. They would usually join up with 2 other drivers to form a 6 horse team which pulled a wagon. This was the main transport to and from the front carrying arms, food medical supplies and casualties back from the lines. They would also pull heavier artillery into position at times. Drivers would often also be trained as gunners to relieve other gunners at times. The wagons would frequently be targeted by enemy machine gun fire and artillery to try disrupt supply lines to the front line troops. The carnage of dead & maimed horses and men was not uncommon
Like his brothers, following training, Harry was sent to France. He arrived there on the 28th February 1915, going straight into action at Armentieres (His brother Thomas followed him to Armentieres, five months later in July)
Harry was only there for ten months, as in December he was moved on to Abbeville. He returned in March 1916 to Mont St Eloi
Harry was only there for a short time before moving on to Neuville St Vaast, and from there he moved on to Abbeville in December 1915. He returned to the Pas-de-Calais department in March 1916 and was billeted at Mont-Saint-Éloi. That year, he took part in the battle of the Somme, and was with his Division throughout engagements up till September 1918, when he fell sick. ‘It is quite possible, like so many survivors of this conflict, Harry suffered from ‘shell shock‘ a severe anxiety disorder associated with active military service. We might now use the term ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’. Despite whole military hospitals being given over to treating this disorder during 1917, "shell shock" was entirely banned as a diagnosis in the British Army, and mentions of it were censored, even in medical journals. There was a tremendous stigma attached to the diagnosis at the time. Many would regard it as ‘a lack of moral fibre ‘ or ‘ weakness of character ‘ . It would not be something to ever discuss or have written in any records.‘
(Harry's experiences during the Somme campaign, together with the death of his brother James on 14 January 1916 and the severe injuries and gassing of his brother Thomas, would have been bitter experiences for a young man. Nevertheless, he taught himself quite passable French whilst over there and he was undoubtedly an intelligent man. However, at that time, educational opportunities were severely limited for someone from his mining background so he was never able to achieve this potential. Had he been born 60 years later it is very likely that he would have been university educated and entered a profession. Although Harry never talked about his experiences during the war, he did sometimes show his grandson Mike INSKIP photographs of himself with his horses in France.)
Harry was returned to England and recuperated in Wellington. He was assigned, nominally, to the Corps Royal Engineers 20th Territorial Force Depot - an administrative facility for home based sick / wounded RE servicemen. The role of the Territorial Force Depots seems to have been purely administrative, typically with a strength of about 1 officer and 10 other ranks or so. However, they appear to have had a large number of men "on their books" who were not actually present but who were in hospital or at home recuperating. Many of these men would later be discharged wounded
Following his recovery, Harry was discharged from the Army on the 16th July 1919, under Paragraph 392 (xvi), Kings Regulations – which declared that he was "no longer physically fit for war service"
His home address was 33 St John’s Road, Cannock, the same as his brother James
(*4) ‘The Roll of the Great War’      (*5) Entry in ‘The Roll of the Great War’
(*6)   Harry's Medal Card                         (*7) Harry's Medical Card
Like his two older brothers, Tom and Jim, Harry received the 1915 Star Medal, the British War Medal 1914 -1920 and the Victory Medal
(*8)   1914-1915 Star    (*9)   British War Medal     (*10) Victory Medal
The family still have his war medals
Harry returned home from the Great War and at the age of 27, on Christmas Day, the 25th December 1923, aged 27 Harry married Maud JACKSON at Saint Luke’s Church, Cannock. Harry and Maud went on to have a family of 4 children all born in Cannock, Harry PENTON born in 1925, Victor Owen PENTON born 8th August 1926, Ronald Trevor PENTON, born in 1928 and Patricia J PENTON born in 1931. Sadly their eldest son Harry died in 1926 and their third son Ronald died in 1930. Victor Penton had no children but in 1983, at the age of 56, he married Violet Lucy Gordon at Cannock Register Office. Victor lived until 1997 and his wife Violet, born on 17 October 1933, died on 2 July 2001. Patricia Penton married William K INSKIP at St Luke's Church in Cannock in the summer of 1956 and their only son Michael INSKIP - the author of this biography - was born in Wolverhampton in 1963
(*11) Harry is on the far right with the Churchwarden Pipe Club outside the Yew Tree Inn, Mill Street, Cannock
(*12) Harry walking through Cannock town center with his dog 'Peg'
In 1978, at the age of 82, Michael's grandfather Harry PENTON was taken ill and admitted to Kingsmead Hospital, Cannock, where he died on the 29th July of that year. His wife Maud died two years later on 7 March 1980 at Stafford Hospital
Harry's death was registered at Stafford Registry Office, Volume 30 Page 1119
Harry was cremated at Bushbury Crematorium, Wolverhampton
Of their children, Harry died in 1926, Victor died in 1997 and Ronald died in 1930. Patricia married William INSKIP in 1956
Item, Source and Credit
(*1)   Extract from the 1911 Census © The National Archives
(*2)   Photograph Harry PENTON © Mike INSKIP
(*3)   Photograph Harry PENTON © Mike INSKIP
(*4)   Photograph book cover ‘The Roll of the Great War’ © Walsall Local History Centre
(*5)   Entry from 'The Roll of the Great War' © Walsall Local History Centre
(*6)   Medal Card © The National Archives
(*7)   Medal Card © The National Archives
(*8)   Photograph 1914-1915star © Alan BETTS BFHG
(*9)   Photograph British War Medal © Alan BETTS BFHG
(*10) Photograph Victory Medal © Alan BETTS BFHG
(*11) Photograph Harry PENTON © Mike INSKIP
(*12) Photograph Harry PENTON © Mike INSKIP


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