Sunday, October 26, 2014

15030 Sergeant Harry Cottingham, Royal Field Artillery

Harry Cottingham does not appear in the Reverend Jellicoe’s monthly roll call of serving soldiers.  This is surprising as he was born in Chailey and served with the Royal Artillery – and later the Royal Field Artillery - on and off, between 1884 and 1920. 

He first joined the 1st Brigade, Cinque Ports, Royal Artillery at Dover on 16th January 1884.  He was eighteen years and six months old and was given the number 40828.  He was five feet six and a quarter inches tall and weighed 126 lbs.  His complexion is described as ruddy, his eyes grey and his hair dark brown.  A vaccination mark on his knee is also noted. 

On 1st February 1884 he was transferred to the 4th Brigade and on 15th January 1886, granted Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 1d.  He was promoted bombardier in February 1889 and corporal in March 1890.  He was transferred to the Army Reserve in December 1891, having served our years and 38 days with the Colours, and was discharged on the termination of his first period of engagement on 14th January 1896.  During his time with the artillery he spent over six years in India, (12th February 1885 to 30th November 1891). During his time in India he also passed his fourth class certificate of education (24th November 1885) and his third class certificate (18th June 1887).  His character is noted as good and his next of kin as his father, James, of South Common, Chailey. 

On 23rd May 1900, with Britain at war with South Africa, Harry Cottingham enlisted again; this time for a period of one year with the Colours.  He was now 34 years and nine months old and working as a labourer (possibly in the Chailey brickyards). He enlisted at Brighton with the Royal Field Artillery and was given a new number: 10525.  He attested as a gunner but was immediately promoted to corporal on the same day.  Two days later he was posted to the 115th Battery Royal Field Artillery, serving with this unit until his discharge on 22nd May 1901.   

Harry appears on the 1901 census as a married 35 year old corporal stationed at the District Royal Artillery barracks at Weedon Beck, Northamptonshire and I think he probably remained in England for the duration of his one year’s service.  He had married Laura Martin in 1895 and the couple had two children: Dorothy Cottingham, born in 1898 and Hector Cottingham, born in 1900.  Two more children would follow later: Leslie in 1902 and Charlie in 1908. 

When Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, Harry enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery for a third time.  This time he joined the Special Reserve for one year’s service and was given a third number: 15030.  He enlisted on 14th September 1914 aged 47 years and 104 days.  By now he weighed 137 lbs, a marginal increase of just 11lbs since he’d first enlisted twenty yeas earlier. 

There now began a period of service in England which would last until his final discharge from the Royal Field Artillery in February 1920.  He was posted to the 19th (Reserve) Battery on 17th September 1914.  His rank was again gunner but again he was promoted immediately to corporal.  He was posted to 4 “A” Reserve Brigade, RFA in October 1914 and promoted to sergeant that December.  Two years later, in December 1916, he was posted to the 20th Reserve Battery and three months later, in March 1917, was posted back to 4 “A” Reserve Brigade, to the Remounts Section.  In October 1917 he was posted again, this time to a Divisional Ammunition Column and then in May 1918 to the Command Depot of the 5th Reserve Brigade, Royal Artillery Tank Corps.  In March 1919, still not tired of army life, Harry volunteered for a further one year with the colours and was finally discharged on 28th February 1920.  He was now 53 years old and had served nineteen years with the Royal Artillery and Royal Field Artillery. 

Despite having served during both the Boer War and the First World War, Harry received no medals from either campaign as his service had been conducted entirely in the UK.

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