Henry Joseph Brennan

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Harry Brennan is also commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium

Henry Joseph (Harry) Brennan was born in Jarrow on 21st July 1899. He was baptised at St. Bede's Church on 23rd July, his godparents being his uncle Harry Kelly and aunt Alice Daly. At the age of 13 he was enrolled in Mount St. Mary's College, a Catholic Boarding School at Spinkhill near Sheffield. Early in April 1918 he landed in France, just in time to be embroiled in Ludendorff's spring offensive. On Wednesday 10th April he wrote to his mother asking her to send him 10/- (see facsimile of postcard below). The following day - Thursday, 11th April 1918 he was killed at Steenwerck in Belgium during the first phase of the Battles of the Lys (April 7th - 25th 1918).

Postcard from field  Postcard from field - cover

A transcript of the above reads as follows:

Dear Mother,
Will you try and send me some money. We have not been paid since we came out and I'm practically (word missing) I don't suppose we'll get paid for weeks yet. If poss send a 10/- note as Postal Orders cannot be changed here.

The following excerpt is taken from "The Mountaineer" the college magazine, commenting on Harry's death:

The ruthlessness of war is brought home to us with especial force by the sad news of the death of Harry Brennan, who left the Mount so recently. He was killed in action on April 11th. There are still at the College many of his friends and comrades, to one of whom we are indebted for the following appreciation: "Harry Brennan gave one the impression of being a hard-working boy of exceptional ability. He consistently maintained a very high place in his class, even after having gone up two classes, instead of one, in a year. In sports and games, though small of stature, he could hold his own. His sense of humour was very keen; he was always ready for any harmless mischief that was going on; his frequent laugh was pleasant to hear - a laugh that rang true and hearty"

After leaving the Mount, in April 1917, Harry joined the Durham O.T.C. While a member of that Corps, he was accepted for a commission in the R.F.C. but was rejected by the Medical Board. Subsequently, he was transferred to the London regiment, and remained four months more in England. While at home on leave in March, 1918, Harry was summoned to return to his regiment and was full of high spirits on his departure. Six days later he was in France, and only a week had elapsed when he was killed by a fragment of a shell. Death was instantaneous. The bright and cheerful boy of less than nineteen years was one more victim in the mighty holocaust of war. While sympathizing in the sorrow of his family, and ourselves deeply regretting his loss, we are proud to claim him as a son of the Mount and to add his name to our list of fallen heroes. R.I.P.

The following is a facsimile of the letter received by Harry's mother notifying her of his death.

Letter notifying Harry's death - page 1  Letter notifying Harry's death - page 1

* Martin Howard Rogers transferred to the Army Education Corps at the end of the War and left the Army in 1920.

Harry's regiment was the Middlesex Regiment (20th Battalion) which together with a number of other regiments formed the 121st Brigade of the 40th Division. The Welsh Regiment (18th Battalion) formed part of the 119th Brigade of this Division, and it would appear that at the time of his death Harry was under the command of an officer of this regiment. Following the Battles of the Lys the Division had suffered so many casualties that it was reduced to a training cadre.

Harry Brennan as a schoolboy  Harry Brennan in uniform
Harry aged about 12  Harry in uniform

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