CWG: Private Harry Pullen

Private Harry Pullen

What I have discovered while researching the Commonwealth War Graves, is that, despite the general themes I find, the people behind the names always have an individual story to tell. Sometimes that story raises an eyebrow, or produces a gasp.

Such was the story of Private Harry Pullen.

What raised the eyebrow? Two words, written on the Army Records of Soldiers’ Effects.

Accidentally Drowned.

Harry Pullen was born in Shirehampton, Gloucestershire in 1886. His father, Robert Edward Pullen, was a carpenter; he and his wife Hannah Presulga Cissy Pullen had three other children, Gwendoline, Herbert and John.

By the time of the 1901 census, Robert is boarding in a house in Bristol with his three sons; Hannah and Gwendoline are not listed (nor do they appear on any other census records I have been able to locate).

Harry is listed as a Telegraph Boy, as is his brother Herbert, but he seemed to have wanted to take up a trade; by 1910 he had moved up to London.

In March of that year, Harry married Harriet Critchell, a spinster fifteen years his senior. On their marriage records for Christ Church, St Pancras, Harry lists himself as a tradesman. The census a year later confirms this – head of the household, he is an Agent for the Provident Clothing Supply Company. (Founded in Bradford, West Yorkshire, Provident’s mission was to help working-class families provide for themselves through the use of vouchers. These were exchanged for goods in local shops, and paid for in affordable instalments.)

Harry enlisted at some point after 1916. His regiment, the 1st (Reserve) Garrison Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, was not formed until March of that year, and, after starting in Buckinghamshire, it moved to Tilbury in Essex and Gravesend in Kent. The battalion was finally settled in Grain, North Kent in 1918, and it was here that he served.

Here the trail goes frustratingly cold…

Private Pullen’s enlistment and service records are not available, so research is limited to the Army Register of Soldier’s Effects and the Pension Ledgers.

All we have about his death are those two words – Accidental Drowning. There are no contemporary news reports of his passing, which you might expect given the circumstances, so the circumstances surrounding his death are elusive.

Private Pullen died on 10th July 1918. He was 31 years old.

His records confirm that Harriet was entitled to a weekly pension of 15s for the duration of the war and twelves months after.

Harry Pullen is buried in the graveyard of St James’ Church in Grain, Kent, close to where he was stationed.

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