Full name and title: Second Lieutenant Harold James Cryer

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Harold Cryer was born in Brixton in summer 1898 to south Londoner Joseph Herbert Cryer (described as a Civil Servant with the Central Telegraph Office/Post Office, an imposing building in the City which handled 150,000 messages a day) and Sarah Annie Cryer, from Lower Basildon, Berkshire. In 1901 Mr and Mrs Cryer were living at 53 Herne Hill Road with their three children, Dorothy Ellen (aged eight), Leonard Herbert (four) and Harold James (two), as well as Sarah's unmarried sister Sophia. Ten years later they had moved round the corner to 27 Oakbank Grove, Herne Hill. Joseph Cryer was still a telegraphist; both boys were studying, but Dorothy (now 18) had left the family home, probably to work elsewhere. The family attended St Saviour's Church, Herne Hill Road, where Harold became a choir boy.

Harold joined the 28th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Artists' Rifles) which attracted recruits from public schools and universities. Following the outbreak of the war, a number of enlisted members were selected to train as officers in other units. Over 15,000 men passed through the Battalion during the war, more than 10,000 becoming officers. Nothing is known of Harold Cryer's service record before 7 June 1917, when he was promoted from cadet to Second Lieutenant on probation in the Royal Flying Corps. (His elder brother Leonard was also in the RFC and had already achieved that distinction.) Harold Cryer was allocated to 10 Training Squadron, soon to be based at Shawbury, Shropshire, an airfield that had been laid out by German POWs. By summer 1917, the new airfield was ready and No 29 (Training) Wing, which included 10 Training Squadron, was formed on 1 September 1917. Harold Cryer was confirmed in his rank on 8 September.

In June 1917, the famous Sopwith Camel single-seat fighter entered service. Accidents were common, due to inexperienced instructors pushing pupils through the course as fast as possible. Aviation author Robert Jackson notes that: "in the hands of a novice it displayed vicious characteristics that could make it a killer". Second Lieutenant Harold Cryer was "killed whilst flying" his Camel (B5164) on 13 October 1917, at the age of just 19. The accident report (written by Captain L. Wanless O'Gowan) stated that the aircraft span out of control, righted itself then span again and crashed two miles from the aerodrome. St Saviour's parish magazine comments that "the two brothers were at home and at Church together a fortnight before he was killed".

Harold Cryer's funeral service was held at St Saviour's on 18 October and he was buried at West Norwood Cemetery on the same day (his address being recorded as 12 Fawnbrake Avenue, although the CWGC website gives his parents' address as 24 Ferndene Road Herne Hill). Harold's brother Leonard survived the war, married Clarice Brett in 1922 and died in 1961.

[Select the image to view an enlarged version]
Second Lieutenant Harold James Cryer
Caption: RAF Shawbury in 1918
Credit: Unknown
Source: Shropshire Remembers website

[Select the image to view an enlarged version]
Second Lieutenant Harold James Cryer
Caption: Sopwith Camel
Credit: Unknown
Source: Wikipedia

Regiment: Royal Flying Corps
Unit: 10 Training Squadron
Cause of death: Died in accident
Rank at death: Second Lieutenant
Date of death: 13/10/1917
Age at death: 19
Country of death: United Kingdom
Memorial or Cemetery: West Norwood Cemetery, Screen Wall 46. 34575
Locally remembered at: St Saviour's Memorial

Herne Hill Connection: Resident and family lived there
Address: 12 Fawnbrake Avenue, Herne Hill