Henry George Kirkby

Information about birth

Year of birth:
Place of birth:
Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom

General information

Professional Soldier

Army information

England, United Kingdom
British Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
 —  King's Royal Rifle Corps, 21st Bn. (Yeoman Rifles)  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Graves Copse, Zillebeke, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Distinctions and medals 3

Points of interest 3

#1 Place of birth
#2 Enlistment place
#3 Place of death (approximate)

My story

Henry George Kirkby was born in 1884 in Sheffield, Yorkshire. Henry was a professional soldier, having joined the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in August 1903 for a period of twelve years. He served in Bermuda, Crete, Malta and India. When he first enlisted he joined the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 3rd Battalion as a Rifleman. He proceeded to rise through the ranks, being made Bugler in 1906, Bugler Lance Corporal in 1909, and then promoted to Corporal in October 1914. Henry was transferred to the Army Cyclist Corps in December 1914, but he transferred back a few months later to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps where he joined the 21st Battalion, part of the 124th Brigade of the 41st Division. On September 9th 1916 he was appointed acting Serjeant and was promoted to full Serjeant on April 11th 1917. He was killed in action on 31st July 1917 during the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, the opening stage of the Third Battle of Ypres.

On July 31st, the 124th Brigade was in Divisional Reserve to the 123rd Brigade, who were carrying out an attack along the Ypres-Comines Canal. The 123rd Brigade advanced from Battle Wood, east of the Canal. It was assigned to capture three objectives. The first objective was situated at Imperfect Trench and Opaque Keep. The second objective was a trench running from Graves Copse, through Opaque Wood, towards Hessian Wood. The last objective was a line running from Lock No. 6.

Whilst proceeding to the assembly positions the 21st Battalion suffered a few casualties, due mustard gas shells. The attack itself took place during a heavy rainstorm which made good progress very difficult. Despite heavy resistance the first wave of the brigade managed to capture the German’s frontline at Imperfect Trench. The attack was continued by the second wave. The going was tough. Swaths of flooded terrain made progress slow and the barrage got ahead of the troops. As the Brigade advanced it encountered more determined resistance. The second objective at Graves Copse was captured by the West Kents and the Queen’s.

Now the 20th Battalion Durham Light Infantry advanced to the Third and last objective, near Lock No. 6. However as soon as the Battalion crossed the second objective, at Graves Copse, it faced heavy German machinegun fire coming from concealed pill-boxes, which the barrage had failed to take out. Persistent and well-aimed machinegun- and sniper fire of the 6th Bavarian Division demanded its toll and the 20th Durham Light Infantry was forced to dig in in front of their objective. During the rest of the day several counterattacks were repelled by rifle- and artillery fire. At 7 p.m. “A” and “B” Companies of the 21st Battalion were sent forward to repel a counter-attack on the right flank of the 123rd Brigade. The Bavarians withdrew with heavy losses and at dusk, “A” and “D” Companies returned to their original positions in the vicinity of Battle Wood.

Although the 21st King’s Royal Rifle Corps didn’t participate in the big push, they did lose a number of men, amongst whom Serjeant Kirkby, aged 33. Henry has no known grave and is remembered on the Menin Gate. Henry’s son was born on November 10th 1917, over three months after his death. His girlfriend Kate got pregnant, when Henry was at home, from September 1916 until March 1917, while convalescing from a gunshot wound. He was allowed compassionate leave from April 19th-26th to go home and marry Kate. Thereafter he returned to the front.

Files 1

Sources 6

Sources used
Sources used
Hare, S., "The Annals of the King's Royal Rifle Corps, Volume 5: The Great War", London, 1932, 226-227.
Sources used
Long Long Trail
Sources used
Murray, J., "The King's Royal Rifle Corps Chronicle for 1917", London, 1920, 226.
Sources used
War Diary
Sources used