Harry's last resting place at Carisbrooke Cemetery.

Fireman Harry Perkins of Newport Fire Brigade passed away on 29 October 1939 aged 61.

 

Little is known of Harry's young life. He was born on 18 December 1878 but no evidence has been unearthed to indicate where, who his parents were or where he was raised.

What is known is that he joined Newport's brigade sometime prior to the outbreak of the First World War. 

In January 1912 he also joined the Isle of Wight Rifles and by the time war broke out he was serving as Lance Corporal Perkins 8/1096. Accordingly he was one of the Island soldiers, six of whom were Newport firemen, that shipped out to Gallipoli with B Company of the Hampshire Regiment.

Harry was present during the assault on Sulva Bay in early to mid August 1915 and was badly injured in the process. He took one round to the head, another through an arm but didn't fall until shrapnel shredded his legs. The County Press reported in October 1915 that; Owing to the heavy fighting it was some hours before assistance could reach him and he crawled to the best shelter he could find and pluckily rendered first aid to himself until the ambulance workers could get to him. 

Those brave bearers endured tenacious machine gun fire to reach and retrieve Harry after an incredible period of self-survival exceeding 36 hours. But his trial was far from over.

Harry was placed aboard a hospital ship and given the seriousness of his injuries plans were made to carry out surgery on his tattered legs until fire caught hold of the vessel and all aboard were desperately transferred to another ship that came to their aid. News of his plight first reached the Island in a letter home from the Rifles' Sergeant Barnes.

Eventually he arrived at one of the several military hospitals established in Manchester where he received a parcel of smoking materials and a shaving outfit from his friends of Newport Fire Brigade. He wote to them in late September; I am sorry to tell you that my Fire Brigade work is finished, as, after all the care, kindness, and the best of treatment, there is only one thing to save my life, and that is to have my leg off. I stood for my country in her hour of need, and I hope and trust, if I recover from my illness, that my country will stand by me.

Manchester Royal Infirmary

Two weeks later he wrote again, this time to the brigade's Deputy Captain P.E. Shields expressing his relief that he had recovered from the trauma of the amputation carried out at Manchester Royal Infirmary and that he was very much looking forward to seeing his friends in the near future; tell them that although I am passing through a most serious trial, I have still a pleasant smile for them all. What Harry didn't dwell on was the painful battle against blood poisoning and the end to his much celebrated career with Newport football club where he was a valued forward.

He was happy to report that he was by now joined in Manchester by his wife Clara Adelaide (nee Bramble) who he'd married in Newport shortly before departing for the front. 

Having overcome his ailments Harry arrived home in early February 1916 and from then on earned an income from the manufacture of shoes. However the effect on his body was to last and he never regained full health despite showing great determination to ensure that by whatever means necessary he could make his way to the recreation ground to watch the summer cricket season. He and Clara were to have three daughters and a son.

Eventually declining health forced him to give up work and the final five months of his life were a gruelling torment both for him and his loved ones as the plucky old fireman-soldier battled against impossible odds as his body deteriorated around him with Clara devoting herself entirely to making his last days as comfortable as possible.

Harry passed away at home, 39 Castle Road, on the Sunday afternoon. 

 

Rest in peace Fireman Perkins.