Peasants to Puddles
My Family History - By Nicky Rowberry

Harold Alcock - Able Seaman Z/5501

This page is dedicated to the memory of Harold Alcock who died on 4th July 1918 in England.

Harold Alcock died on 4th July 1918 in Norwood Cottage Hospital, Croydon, England while serving with the Royal Navy Volunteers. He was sadly one of the casualties amongst the millions of men who lost their lives in World War 1. It seemed sad for him to have died and all but these bare facts remembered, so I've tried to find out at least a little about his life before his untimely death aged just 17.

Harold was born on 23rd July 1900 in Hulme, Lancashire, the oldest child of Arthur Alcock and Sarah Ashton. His father Arthur Alcock was a railway station master and in 1901 the family were living in the Hulme area of Manchester. Harold went to school at Seymour Park School. By 1911 the family had grown with the addition of another son (also Arthur) and Arthur senior was still employed by the railways. Harold of course was still at school.

When war broke out in 1914, Harold would have been too young to join up. But by the beginning of 1918 he must have been determined to do so. On 25th January 1918 he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He was only 17 and since this was clear on his service records, perhaps the navy turned a blind eye to him being under age. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website confirms that he was an Able Seaman in the RNVR. I can't reproduce the CWGC photo of the cemetery, but to see his page please click here.

Harold's service record indicate he'd been working as a clerk before he signed up. The service record also shows that he was considered "satisfactory" in his naval duties and that his character was "very good". Sadly Harold's time in the navy was short. At the beginning of June he became ill. It's possible he was caught up in the devastating flu pandemic that was sweeping the country in 1918. The flu had first appeared in Scotland in May 1918 and by June it had reached London, so Harold may have been one of its early victims. Whatever he was initially ill with, by July it had developed into the pneumonia which ultimately killed him. The flu at that time was known to worsen very suddenly, which is perhaps indicated by the second of the newspaper reports below, where his parents mourn the sudden loss of their son. (Images Trinity Mirror. Images created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Images reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (

Harold was buried back home in Manchester in the Southern Cemetery at Chorlton Cum Hardy. Thanks to George Cogswell at Trafford War Dead Website I now have these photos of the Alcock family gravestone and the memorial plaque in St John's Church in Old Trafford. His name was recorded on a memorial at his old school at Seymour Park, but sadly this memorial plaque is now lost.

Unfortunately I haven't found a photo of Harold yet. The nearest I can get for a description of him is that given on his service record. It describes him as 6 foot 1, with brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion. It would be lovely to complete Harold's story by finding a photo of him, so if anyone has one, please do get in touch.

Of all the soldiers and sailors I have researched, Harold Alcock is the youngest to have died in WW1, just short of his 18th birthday. Unfortunately I have been able to find very little about him, just the scant details above, so this page for him feels sadly lacking. So if anyone can add anything at all, please do get in touch.

In researching Harold's final days, several sites have been invaluable, so I've included links to some of them here.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

The National Archives at Kew:

The British Newspaper Archive:

If any of the above is of further interest, please feel free to contact me at:

Nicky Rowberry 2018

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Peasants to Puddles - My Family History. By Nicky Rowberry