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The Royal Naval Division


The War Diary of John Henry Housby (1898-1988)


John Henry Housby was born at 74 Morton Street, Leicester , March 18th, 1898. Son of Thomas Housby and Kate Sharpe latterly of Stafford. Johnís early life is a bit of a mystery, born only a few months after the marriage of his parents, he apparently he spent his early years in a childrenís home. The General Registry Office Births, Marriages and Deaths indicate that at least four more children were born in Leicester within a few years: Albert Edward (1899), Kitty Irene (1901), Nellie (1904) and Constance (1905). Since Thomas was the first Housby to move to Leicester I expect these were Johnís brother and sisters, but Iíll need to wait for the 1901 and 1911 censuses to be released to be sure.

There appears to have been little love between John and his parents, the latter were never mentioned by him, either to me, his grandson, or indeed my father, Ray. Moreover when John married my Grandmother, Ann Warren (1899-1999) in 1919, there was some major falling out and my grandmother would have no mention of their names. Iím told she even cut them off the wedding photo (since lost)! 

Anyway, the story goes that John met his father in the trenches, which was the first time they had seen each other since he was a child.  

Back to the army career. John was very reticent about his time in the Great War. Occasionally he would answer direct questions from his inquisitive grandson, like "did you ever see any dog fights?", "oh yes". But that was about all. Fortunately I have his discharge papers, which gives his Ďunitsí and dates and allows us general reconstruction of his movements. I also was very fortunate to have been left his medals: the 14/18 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. Not much to show for someone who survived three years in the trenches.

John joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on July 17 1915, his date of birth is given as 18th March 1897, ie he lied about his age, his papers also show he was using his middle name Harry (Henry/Harry was commonly interchangeable). Company No. Z, HQ Ė Tyne, serial no. TZ 5819. He is described as 5ft 6and a half, fair complexion, red hair, brown eyes, occupation- shoehand and could swim.

To be continued