Henry Walter Polson

Born 16 July 1909

Private 6006474 in the Essex Regiment.

Died 13 June 1940

Buried at Block "S", Plot 4, Row U, Grave 17 at 
St. Sever Cemertary Extension, Rouen, France.

The Poulsons first came to Gt Bromley about 1860 from Preston St Mary, Suffolk where they were employed as agricultural labourers.  Henry Poulson, 1837 to 1909, was a Higgler, a travelling dealer, and we assume this was how he found Great Bromley. In 1861 Henry (in a double wedding ceremony with his brother Walter) married Elizabeth Lawrence from Dedham, the brothers both settled in the village with Walter becoming village roadman.

Henry and Elizabeth had eight children, the last in 1881 was Frederick Alfred Polson. Note the spelling of the surname there; we assume as Henry could neither read nor write that this was the census enumerators spelling. 

In 1902 Frederick married Ethel Emily Goodrum from Elmstead Market.  They had 11 children the third of these was Henry Walter Polson, named after his grandfather and great uncle. Henry was known to the family as Harry.

In 1935 Henry married Emily Howard in Dedham Church and settled in Great Bromley and then Dedham. His daughter was born in 1937 and was less than 3 years old when Henry was killed in action in France. 
The family had a double tragedy as Cyril Kenneth Polson (known as Kenny, which is no doubt why his initials appear the wrong way round on the memorial) was killed in December 1943 at Monte Cassino, Italy.

We do not have much information on Harry as a boy; he played football for the village teams. 
After he married he became a keen gardener and supplemented the household ration with rabbits he poached, often shooting them with a folding 4.10 shotgun. At age 16, possibly after Harry had a family row, he added two years to his age and joined the army, who sent him to India in 1930 where he contracted malaria.As a reservist he was mobilized and was one of the first 50 men sent to France in 1939 as part of the British Expeditionary Force.

He was killed at a village called Criquebuef, a week or so after the last boat had left Dunkirk to end the evacuation of the trapped army. Why would an old soldier let himself be trapped in France when he had a wife and young daughter at home?  His letters told us that he, as an experienced soldier knew well "how to play the game", indeed one letter tells how the soldiers who initially went as part of the BEF were not well received in the sergeants mess as they knew more about soldiering than the newly and hastily made up sergeants.

The villagers at Criquebuef still have an annual church service to remember the men who lost their lives in the last recorded battle in France before the Allies came back in 1944.  See Memorial page.

A book about Harry and some of his comrades entitled "The greater share of honour" has been written by Kim James. 

From information supplied by Paul and Mark Manning (grandsons of Harry) and Joy Locke, nee Munson (niece).

Note: Henry also appears on the Dedham War Memorial.