The Manchester Regiment 1899 - 1958

Harry Prendergast 24th battalion

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Harry Prendergast was born on 21 January 1883 in Chorlton-upon-Medlock just outside Manchester, the son of Frederick Prendergast and his wife, Jane. Later the family moved to nearby Moss Side.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Harry became a mercantile clerk but also served for three years in the militia with the 7th Lancashire Volunteer Artillery. The Boer war broke out in 1899 and in January 1901, a few weeks after the death of Queen Victoria, Harry Prendergast enlisted on a short service engagement with the Imperial Yeomanry. Following completion of an enlistment paper with the imaginative age of 20 years and 1 month and a medical, which pronounced him five foot nice inches, brown haired, brown eyed and fit for Army service he was enlisted on 6 February.

Private Prendergast left England for South Africa soon after arriving on 1 March. He served there with the 63rd Company of the Imperial Yeomanry in the Orange Free State, Cape Colony and Transvaal but his service was not to last long. On Christmas Day he was admitted to No 3 General Hospital at Kroonstadt in Orange Free State, suffering from enteric fever. From there he was sent further down the railway line to Norvals Point one month later. 4 February 1902 he was transferred to Wynberg near Cape Town before embarking for England arriving at Netley Hospital near Southampton , on 18 March. The Boer, War all but over, Prendergast was discharged on 2 April and returned to his father’s home in Moss Side. On 2 June 1903 he married 19 year old Edith Yuill of nearby Sale in Cheshire and settled in Brooklands. Their son, Sydney was born 4 months later

His association with the Army was renewed 14 September 1914 when Prendergast enlisted in London where he was probably plying his trade now as a cotton merchant. He was accepted for war service into the 20th (Service) Battalion (3rd Public Schools) of the Royal Fusiliers, a brand new battalion which had started recruiting just three days earlier.(nb the 20th battalion recruited strongly in Manchester, so it's very possible he enlisted here. cch) In October the battalion moved into barracks at Leatherhead. He moved quickly through the ranks, probably because of his previous (albeit limited) war service and by the end of November was a platoon sergeant

His total service with the Royal Fusiliers lasted just 159 days, for at the beginning of 1915 he applied for and obtained a commission as one of the original officer of the 24th (Service) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a ‘Pals’ battalion largely composed of men from Oldham’s cotton industry and why Prendergast requested or was allocated this particular battalion is unknown, although it may have been in relation to his civilian job as a cotton merchant. Apart from Lieutenant Colonel Scott, the Officer Commanding, who had served as a subaltern during Burma campaigns of 1887, Prendergast was almost unique amongst the battalion officer in having seen any active service

On 8 March the ‘Oldham Pals’ left Clegg Street station on two trains bound for Llanfairfechan camp in Wales. In May the battalion moved to Grantham and in September to Larkhill on Salisbury Plain where it became part of the newly formed 30th Division. On 8 August, Harry Prendergast was made a captain and on 8 November the Pals once more entrained, this time for Southampton to embark for Le Harve. One month later, the battalion became part of the 22nd Brigade of the 7th Division

The battalion firstly underwent trench instruction with the 110th Brigade in the Berles sector between Albert and Arras where their first casualty, a victim of a sniper was a small French dog that had been adopted as the battalion’s mascot. The Oldhamer’s initiation into trench holding themselves was violent and deadly. On 5 February, the battalion had taken over trenches above the German held village of Fricourt. The very next day, an enemy artillery barrage claimed the live s of one officer and five men, including the RSM. During their first 24 hours the battalion lost 17 men killed and at least 15 wounded

From as early as December 1914, the War Office had decided that specialist troops, know as Pioneers, would be needed for digging, bridging, road making and various other constructions and ordered certain battalions to be converted or raised for this role. In May 1916, the battalion was withdrawn as a front line infantry unit and became the Pioneer battalion of the 7th Division. The battalion supported both the attacking battalions and the Royal Engineer throughout the Somme offensive and was at times even involved in the fighting. For most of the latter party of 1916 the Pals provided working parties engaged in digging trenches, laying wire and many other tasks supporting the other arms of the division.

Prendergast remained with the battalion until 4 December when he returned Englandon leave. He had had haemorrhoids for three years prior but life on the Western Front had made them unbearable. Against his better judgement, apparently, he underwent an operation in Manchester on 21 January 1917 to have them removed. Unable to return from his planned short leave, he was struck off strength of the 24th Manchester’s on 26 February 1917. Whilst he served with the 71st Training Reserve Battalion, formally a reserve battalion of the Manchester Regiment based in Ripon

His war service was not the end here however; by the end of the year he was apparently back in once more [unconfirmed], serving with the Gold Coast Regiment of the West African Field Force. He served as a colonial office/government lieutenant with the local rank of major. He finally relinquished his commission on 2 April 1919

Harry Prendergast died in 1962 in Stockport Cheshire