Great-granddad was a war hero

Henry Tumilty
Henry Tumilty

A WOMAN is hoping to install a lasting tribute to her hero great-grandfather who survived a shell attack during the First World War, only to drown at sea in his civilian job.

Headland-born Henry Tumilty served with various regiments including the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) and fought in the Boer War and First World War.

Michelle Plant examines a photograph featuring her great-grandfather, Henry Tumilty

Michelle Plant examines a photograph featuring her great-grandfather, Henry Tumilty

He was 18 when he signed up to the DLI, in 1893, alongside his younger brother Thomas.

Pictured left, Michelle Plant examines a photograph featuring her great-grandfather

He was despatched to South Africa during the Boer War and, as a “crackshot marksman” was later posted to join the Burma Mounted Infantry.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Henry was despatched to the frontline with the DLI.

On October 15, 1916, while Henry was serving in the trenches in Trone’s Wood, France, with his other brother Benjamin, a metal shell landed at Henry’s foot alongside him and their cousin, whose surname was McAllister.

Both Benjamin and McAllister died, but amazingly, Henry was unhurt.

Henry’s amazing story was unearthed by his great-granddaughter, Michelle Plant, who has been researching her family tree for the past seven years.

Michelle, who is mum to Robert, 18, said: “He was so angry, he charged to the enemy’s position firing all these rounds of ammunition and started bayoneting the Germans.”

The 50-year-old former Hartlepool Borough councillor from Woodstock Way, in the Clavering area of Hartlepool, added that Henry was mentioned in dispatches for his brave actions.

Michelle added: “It’s incredible.

“When I was little I always heard my nana mention him now and again.

“She used to call him her brave father.”

But despite Henry defying death during the war, tragedy was to follow closer to home.

After leaving the forces, Henry took a job as a stoker of a ship called the SS Elleray, which carried coal.

The ship had been berthed at North Shields, but set sail from Hartlepool to London.

Sadly it was never to arrive at its destination.

After a stormy journey, the vessel was lost at sea off Flamborough Head, near Bridlington on January 5, 1922.

Michelle, whose mother Jean Kennedy’s mum Margaret was Henry’s daughter, said: “You don’t know your past until you look into it and it’s like ‘wow – this person did all this and achieved all that.

“There’s nothing commemorating him here – it’s sad to think someone has gone through all of that and there’s nothing to say he was here.”

Henry was married to Charlotte (nee Trimmer) who was born in India as her father, Henry Cornelius Trimmer was in the military in The Punjab, in Pakistan.

Henry Trimmer died in Hartlepool from a wound to his leg and he is buried with his daughter in West View Cemetery.

Michelle plans to install a plaque in memory of Henry on his wife – the mother of his eight children – and her father’s grave next month.