Today We Remember: Captain Harold Ackroyd, V.C. M.C.
Harold was a doctor and scientist, born in Southport, Lancashire in 1877.
After a large inheritance, the family’s fortunes changed dramatically and Harold was afforded a private education. He attended Mintholme College and Shrewsbury School, then Cambridge. While at Cambridge, Harold met Mabel Robina Smythe, who was a matron at Strangeways Hospital. They married in 1908 and went on to have three children, Ursula, Stephen and Anthony.
Also in 1908, Harold received a scholarship from the British Medical Association, becoming a Research Scholar at Downing College, Cambridge. He started out in the Pharmacological Laboratory and worked with Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins who was Professor of Biochemistry.
The outbreak of war
When the First World War broke out, Harold was 38. Despite being heavily involved in his scientific research, he left the university to join the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1915. Harold had been involved in research on Purine metabolism and had been working on several papers, detailing what he had been researching.
After joining up, Sir Frederick published three papers on their work. He paid tribute to Harold in the paper and maintained that any errors therein were his, as Harold was away at the Front and therefore not involved in the later stages of their experiments.
During the battle of The Somme, on 19th July 1916, Harold was recommended eleven times for the Victoria Cross, and awarded the Military Cross, for his bravery in rescuing wounded while under heavy fire.
In a particularly brutal and convoluted fight in Delville Wood, the “stooping, grey haired, bespectacled” Harold cleared the wounded from behind his battalion’s line. When this had been achieved, he went out beyond the front line and brought in both British and German wounded for treatment, all the while under heavy fire.
A year later Harold received the Victoria Cross for his actions during the third battle of Ypres over the 31st of July and 1st of August. For many hours Harold tended wounded along the front line under heavy machine gun, rifle and shell fire, receiving 23 recommendations for the Victoria Cross.
Harold survived the battle but was unable to receive his medal, as eleven days later he was killed by a sniper while attending to wounded in a shell hole. He was 40 years old. Harold is buried at Birr Cross Roads Cemetery, near Ypres. To find out more or conduct your own research, visit www.cwgc.org.