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5126: 'Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated'

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posted on 2024-01-16, 17:20 authored by Lest We Forget Project Team

Hartley's Officer Service File (WO 339/98627) contains detailed records of his hospital treatment and the repeated Medical Boards held to assess his recovery. Hartley was treated first at 3rd Southern General Hospital, Oxford, and was then transferred to the Hospital for Officers at Somerville College in the city. His wound was described as 'severe'and the initial diagnosis that it would heal quickly was inaccurate. Hartley learned to write with his left hand and described his right hand as 'useless' with no use of his fingers (May). In a letter of 8th August to the War Office in which he repeated his request for a wound gratuity, Hartley described his hand as 'stiff & practically useless.'

Hartley's final Medical Board was at Ripon on 28th August 1918. It was concluded that although 'the wound is completely healed, there are united fractures, with much callous and deformity, of the 3rd & 4th metacarpals of rt hand causing much limitation of flexion of the corresponding fingers with much consequent loss of grip power of that hand. Flexion of the other two fingers is also limited but to a lesser extent.' He was discharged to service with 3rd Battalion Duke of Wellington's. The Leave of Absence Certificate he kept among his papers had been extended for nine months to 5th September 1918, but he received further extensions of leave until late November. Hartley had been thinking of a way to get out of returning to the front soon after his arrival at Somerville. On 25th January 1918 he addressed a letter which does not survive to Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston, commander of 8th Corps (Harry's Corps commander during 1916). From the reply, which Harry kept, we learn that he requested Hunter-Weston's help that he be employed in the interrogation of German prisoners. It is possible that he sent the copies from his message pad with the request. It would be some months before his initiative bore fruit. Another document in Michael's possession is the telegram sent to his father on 30th April 1918 announcing his son's death in action. Harry wrote on it 'My Death Certificate' and kept it in a frame. It was a case of mistaken identity.

History

Name of contributor(s)

Michael Berry

Subject of the story/individual the object(s) relate to

Second Lieutenant Harry Hartley

Date(s) the event(s) in the story took place

1918

Location(s) where the event(s) in the story took place

Somerville College War Hospital, Oxford

Object(s)

Letters, telegram

Community Collection Day

City Hall, Bradford (02/02/19)

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