b. 31/08/1894 London. d. 16/06/1958 Chelmsford, Essex.
Harold Sandford Mugford (1894-1958) was born at 149 Keetons Road, St James’, Bermondsey, London on 31st August 1894. His father, Richard John Sanford Mugford, was a solicitor’s clerk. He married Rose Lilian nee Parsons on 5th September 1892 at St Olave, London. Harold was one of three brothers. His brothers were called Richard Henry and Percy Cecil. Sadly, Percy was killed in action in the First Battle of Gaza on 26th March 1917 and his body was not recovered. Tragically, his other brother Richard committed suicide in 1934 following financial problems.
Harold was educated at Shrewsbury Road School, Forest Gate and was then employed as a clerk by the shipping group Messrs Furness Withy. He enlisted in the Essex Yeomanry on 18th December 1912 and was mobilised in August 1914. He went to France on 29th November 1914 and saw action around Ypres and at Loos in 1915. On three occasions he was buried by shells exploding close to his dugout. On 29th February 1916 he transferred with the Essex Yeomanry Machine Gun Detachment to 8th Cavalry Brigade Machine Gun Squadron on the formation of brigade machine gun squadrons and companies.
On 11th April 1917 at Monchy-le-Preux, France, under intense fire, Lance-Corporal Mugford got his machine-gun into a forward, very exposed position from which he dealt very effectively with the enemy. Almost immediately his No. 2 was killed and he was severely wounded. He was ordered to go to a new position and then have his wounds dressed but this he refused to do, staying to inflict severe damage on the enemy with his gun. Soon afterwards a shell broke both his legs, but he still remained with his gun and when he was at last removed to the dressing station he was again wounded.
As a result of his wounds sustained, he was evacuated to England and underwent six operations. Both legs were amputated above the knee and shrapnel was removed from his hip, tongue and jaw. He was confined to a wheelchair for much of the rest of his life. He received the VC from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 3rd July 1918. He was officially discharged on 12th July and awarded the Silver War Badge on 20th July. The following month he was presented with a cheque for £300 by the Mayor of East Ham.
He then worked for an oil company in London and on 23rd April 1919 married Amy Mary nee Key at All Saints’ Church, Forest Gate. She was a shorthand typist. There had no children. They originally lived in Little Waltham before settling in Chelmsford, Essex. Harold’s former employers would pay him a pension until he died, and to his wife until her death. Despite his disability, he remained very active and was Vice-President of the Chelmsford Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society. He died at Chelmsford and Essex Hospital, Essex on 16th June 1958 and was cremated at Southend on Sea Crematorium, where his ashes were scattered in the June area.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. As he had no children, Harold bequeathed his medals to Messrs Furness Withy after the death of his wife. The company donated them to the Imperial War Museum on permanent loan.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: SOUTHEND CREMATORIUM, SOUTHEND, ESSEX. ASHES SCATTERED.
War Illustrated, 5th January 1918
Royal Signals Museum (Steve Lee)
Oaklands Park, Chelmsford (Malcolm Pond)