Private John Henry Pitt

John Henry Pitt was born in 1885 in Kidderminster, Worcestershire to a working class family. He was a police constable in Wolverhampton, employed by the Shropshire,Worcestershire and Staffordshire Electric Co (later Midlands Electricity Board) and also worked as a carter and a gardener.

I have heard stories that he lied about his age and joined the 4th Batt, Worcesters and served in Bermuda. I recall him telling me about organising dog fights when they were bored and filing the dog’s teeth to make them sharper. (Different world!!!)

 

The Marriage of John and Camilla 1914

     The marriage of John Henry Pitt and Elsie Camilla Robinson

               February 1914, Kidderminster, Worcestershire

 

He married my Grandmother, Elsie Camilla Robinson, also from Kidderminster in February 1914 and immediately emigrated to Canada to work on farms in Ontario. When war broke out he was being pressured to join Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry but he told me "if there was a war he wanted to fight for England in the Worcesters". In November 1914 they sailed back to England and he enlisted in the 3rd Battalion. i recall my Grandmother telling me he came home, put the sailing tickets on the table and announced his intention to return. She said she was "never so pleased in all her life".

He entered the theatre of operations in March 1915 and his first attack might well have been at Bellewaarde Farm on 16th June 1915. Later he fought at the Somme and was awarded the Military Medal for actions in July of 1916. I have failed to find any citation for the award but the family story tells of him being ordered to hold a captured enemy trench silently as the situation was critical. A German approached his position and he killed the enemy without firing a shot. The exact method is not known. A second enemy

 

 

 

came and he was forced to kill this man silently too. As a resultof his actions a dangerous position was held and he was awarded the MM. During this action he was wounded by a shrapnel ball in the thigh. This was the last of 3 wounds and he was transferred to the ASC and later invalided out of the army. The image to the left is one of a German soldier, who upon surrendering, gave this photograph to them as a trophy.

During his service he suffered three wounds, a shrapnel ball in the thigh in July 1916, a bullet in the knee necessitating the removal of hisknee-cap and the third is not known. He was transferred to the ASC as a carterand later invalided out of the army. ( The image of John on the right was taken at hospital in Plymouth, it has been coined 'Badly bent, but still smiling' ), He never spoke about his experiences and when pressed by me as a youth all he would say was " you d on't want to know about that".

Between the wars he was a member of the British Legion and carried a banner at their local parades in Kidderminster. In 1938 he was selected to go to Czechoslovakia to oversee a plebiscite regarding the Czechs future in WW2. As he was sailing to the continent the situation changed and he was recalled.

During WW2 he served in the ARP as a local warden.

I remember him as a quiet, tough man, not given to any show of emotions. Looking back he grew up in a world of hard lessons and his experiences in the war furthered that education. He also possessed a dry sense of humour and was a good shot. There was always an "Original" air rifle in the corner behind his chair to deal with any rabbits that strayed among the cabbages. He died in 1964 shortly after his golden wedding. Elsie Camilla survived until 1972.  They had 5 children. John, Harold, my father now 92, Hubert, Ronald and a daughter Elsie who also is still alive in Kidderminster.

By permission of  David Pitt