- Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial
- Panel: 53
Distinctions and medals
Serjeant Henry George Kirkby was born on January 1884 in Sheffield, Yorkshire. He had three sisters and two brothers, and was married to a woman called Kate Sparling with whom he had a son named Harold. His son was born on November 10th 1917. This was possible because from September 20th 1916 until 23rd March 1917 Serjeant Kirkby was home due to a gunshot wound to his left leg. His then girlfriend Kate got pregnant during that period and he was allowed compassionate leave from April 19th-26th to go home and marry her. Thereafter he returned to the front. He enlisted early on August 10th 1903.
When he first enlisted he joined the King’s Royal Rifle Corps 3rd Battalion as a Rifleman. He proceeded to grow in rank, first being made Bugler (17/07/1906), then appointed to Bugler Lance Corporal (02/10/1909) and then promoted to Corporal (08/10/1914). In the beginning of 1915 he transferred to the Army Cycle Corps, 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 on the enemy trenches. Whilst proceeding to the assembly positions the 21st Battalion suffered a few casualties by mustard gas shells. The attack itself took place during a heavy rainstorm which made progress very difficult. At 7 p.m. “A” and “B” Companies of the 21st Battalion were sent forward to meet a counter-attack that the enemy was making on the right flank of the 123rd Brigade. They were able to repel the attack. At dusk, “A” and “D” Companies returned to their original positions in the vicinity of Battle Wood. Although the 21st Battalion were not engaged in any big attack, they did lose a number of men, amongst whom Serjeant Kirkby. He likely died during the repelling of the enemy counter-attack. His remains were never found. He is now remembered on the Menin Gate, Panel 53.