Rfl. Harry Stringer Gilbert (1899 – 1918)

The Gilbert family were originally from Coulsdon in Surrey, and had settled in Platt during the late 1880’s. Frederick, the son of a bailiff and the head of the family, was a general labourer, and had married Elizabeth Stringer in 1875. They had a total of 13 children over a 30-year period with Harry, the eighth, born at Bassetts Cottage in Platt on 20 June 1899. Almost exactly five years later on 2 June 1904, Harry began attending Platt School, and was a classmate of Reginald Ernest Bowen.

By 1911 the family had moved to 16 Whatcote Cottages and his father had gained employment as a labourer in the paper mill. At some point over the next few years the family had moved again to 2 Maddox Cottages, which is opposite the church, and young Harry sang in the church choir. He also became a member of the Court Pride of Wrotham, A.O.F. (Ancient Order of Foresters.)

Harry enlisted in the Army in Maidstone in July 1917 and joined the Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own.) Following a period of training, 51287 Rfl H. S. Gilbert was posted to France on 19 June 1918 where he was attached to ‘A’ Coy of the 2nd/17th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment. Harry is likely to have arrived with his new unit near Berthen along with a draft of 214 other men on 16 July.

By the start of August the battalion were at Le Carreaux and took over the front line in the Koudekot Sector from the 2nd South Lancashires on the 14th. Three days later at 2:45 a.m. a party of about 15 Germans raided the British front trench, causing 17 casualties in Harry’s company, who had been holding the line. Harry was among the 17 and seriously wounded in the raid. He survived until 27 August when he died at 62 Casualty Clearing Station (known as the 1/2nd London CCS) in Arneke near Dunkirk.

Harry’s body was buried in the Arneke British Cemetery, and a memorial service conducted by the Rev. Brand was held for him in Platt on 8 September. An obituary of the 19-year-old appeared in the Kent Messenger a week later on 14 September and reported that the reverend “hoped that it would be some consolation to the parents and family in their loss to realise that greater love hath no man than this: that a man should lay down his life for his friends.”

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