Date of birth: 1896
Place of birth: Aldershot, Hampshire
Service number: 9537
Regiment: Hampshire Regiment
Battery: 1st Battalion
Died: 26th April 1915 aged 19
Death location: Belgium
No enlistment papers from Aldershot have survived regarding Harry Soffe. From his medal card we can assume he enlisted on 4th January 1915.
In WW1 Harry served as a private in the Hampshire regiment (service number:9537) in the 1st Battalion which was formed in August 1914 in Colchester as Part of 11th Brigade in 4th Division. The 1st Battalion landed at Le Havre on 23 August 1914.
They took part in the she Second Battle of Ypres which begun in April and was primarily a means of diverting Allied attention from the Eastern Front, and as a means of testing the use of chlorine gas, it eventually concluded in failure in May. As a consequence of the failure of this attack the German army gave up its attempts to take the town, choosing instead to demolish it through constant bombardment. By the end of the war Ypres had been largely reduced to piles of rubble.
Second Ypres is generally remembered today as marking the first use of gas on the Western Front. Although introduced with minimal effect on the Russian Eastern Front at Bolimov by the Germans earlier in the war (where it was so cold the gas had frozen), and in conflict with the Hague Convention which outlawed gas warfare, its impact during Second Ypres was startlingly effective.
5,700 canisters containing 168 tons of chlorine gas were released at sunrise on 22 April against French Algerian and territorial division troops following a brief preliminary bombardment by 17-inch howitzers. A veil of greenish-yellow mist could be clearly seen rolling across from the German front lines to the French positions. The effectiveness of the gas attack was so complete that it surprised the German infantry who followed up the release of the chlorine gas. The stunned Allied troops fled in panic towards Ypres, the heavy gas settling and clogging the trenches where it gathered. Covering four miles of trench lines, the gas affected some 10,000 troops, half of whom died within ten minutes of the gas reaching the front line. Death was caused by asphyxiation. Those who lived were temporarily blinded and stumbled in confusion, coughing heavily. 2,000 of these troops were captured as prisoners of war. The Germans released a second batch of chlorine gas two days later, on 24 April, this time directed against Canadian troops situated north-east of Ypres and again prefaced by a sharp artillery bombardment.
Harry died as a result of this attack on 26th April 1915 after 112 days of service aged 19, and is buried in Ypres Cemetery, Belgium.
He was posthumously awarded the Victory medal, the British medal and 1915 Star medal in recognition of his services to his country and is inscribed on the cenotaph at Southampton “lest we forget” and on the Ypres (Menin Gate) memorial panel 35.
The bronze Star campaign medal of the British Empire was awarded for service in World War One. Also known as the Mons Star. This medal was sometimes irreverently referred to as ‘Pip’.
The silver British War Medal was awarded for service in World War One. Also called the British Empire campaign medal, it was sometimes irreverently referred to as ‘Squeak’.
The bronze Victory medal, also called the Inter Allied Victory Medal was awarded to those who received the British War Medal. This medal was sometimes irreverently referred to as ‘Wilfred’.
Life before the war
Harry Sofee was born in 1896 in Aldershot, Hampshire the 4th child to Market gardener George Thomas Sofee born in 1863 and Rhoda Margaret Fullbrook nee Waite born in 1864 who had married in the second quarter of 1887 in Crookham, Berkshire.
Their marriage was registered in Crookham district vol 2c page 741.
They had a total of 6 children.
The following children of George and Rhoda are confirmed from parish records:
1. Maud Sofee was born in 1888. On 8th August 1911 she married Robert Pixley Edward Wallis, a gunner in the Royal Horse Artillery. They had six or seven children before Maud died in 1935 aged 46.
2. John H Sofee was born in 1890. In 1925 he married Emily K Golden. They had 3 children
3. George A Sofee was born in1893. In 1934 he married Annetta K Broomfield. No children or death information has been confirmed.
4. Harry Sofee was born in 1896
5. Annie S Sofee was born in 1898. In 1934 she married George H Rockley. She died in 1951 aged 52.
6. Charles Victor Nelson Sofee was born in 1901. In 1941 he married Emily Lillian Ashwood. Charles died on 24th August 1953. he left £461 9s 11d to his widow.
In 1891 the family lived at 5 Northholt Row, Greenford Magna, Middlesex. George was a domestic servant-gardener by occupation.
In 1901 the family lived at 55 Alexandra Road, Aldershot. George was now employed as a Market Gardner and his son Harry was 5 years old.
In 1911 the family lived at 140 Queens Road, George was still employed in Market Gardening and Harry aged 15 was a bakers errand boy.
His father George died at the end of 1922 aged 59.
His mother Rhoda died on 13th December 1947. She was living in queens Road, Aldershot. Probate was heard the following September and she left £454 16s 8d to her son Charles Victor Nelson Sofee.
Researched by DHW – 21/07/2013
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