After he left school, Harry Gibbons worked on The Woburn Estate as an Under ‘Keeper and lived in Steppingley. On the 10th November 1914, at the age of 19, Harry voluntarily enlisted at the Bedfordshire Training Depot that had been established by the 11th Duke of Bedford in Ampthill. After 7 months of rifle practice, entrenching and route marches, he was posted to fight in France. During his service, Harry was admitted to hospital twice during his service – once, to a hospital in Etretat, for bronchitis and the second time, to a hospital in Boulogne, for a gunshot wound to the back. Both times he recovered and, thanks to the care he received from The Duchess of Bedford and her team of nurses, was able to return to the front.
It was whilst with the 4th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment and as part of the ‘Hundred Day Offensive” that Harry went into battle at Moerves, France.. On the 27th of September, as the British were making advances towards the Hindenburg support line – the last major defensive position taken up by the German Army during the war sadly Corporal Harry Gibbons lost his life.
Corporal Gibbons is remembered in the Moeurves Communal Cemetery, in the Church in Steppingley, and, since the restoration of the plaques in 2013, on the Memorial in Ampthill Park.
The team at Woburn Abbey are asking the local community for their help to discover more such stories of local people during World War I.
If you can identify any of the soldiers in this photograph, taken outside of Woburn Abbey Sculpture Gallery, please send an email to ValiantHearts@woburn.co.uk or call 01525 290 333. More information about the forthcoming exhibition can be found at www.woburnabbey.co.uk/valianthearts.