Branch Meeting, 21 January, 2017.
Harold Alexander Sloan
198 Siege Battery
Royal Garrison Artillery
Killed in Action, 21 January, 1917.
Harold Sloan was born on 25 August 1882, the third of four sons born to Gilbert and Mary Sloan of Dunsinea, Castleknock, county Dublin. He studied at The High School, located at Harcourt Street, from September 1895 until June 1899, he didn’t complete sixth year in the school and it is highly likely that he entered a civil service college at that time, by 1901, was working as a 2nd division clerk in the civil service.
Sometime in the late 1890’s Harold began playing football for Bohemians FC, at the start of the new century, a new generation of players graduated from the ranks of the reserves into the first squad. Of the reserves, Harold Sloan’s endeavours as a quick-footed forward had caught the most attention. He featured in a 4-0 defeat of Freebooters in March 1900, the match report acknowledging that Bohemians had experimented with several reserves.
On 7 September 1901, Dalymount Park was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mr Tim Harrington, before a crowd of 5,000 spectators. Bohemians defeated Dublin rivals Shelbourne 4-2 in an exhibition match and Harold earned the distinction of having scored the first goal at the new ground.
On 11 February 1903, Harold’s first international selection was announced, he was named at inside left, due to an injury to Shanks, the regular starter, in the Irish side to take on England at Wolverhampton. This was Ireland’s opening fixture in the 1902/03 Home Championship. Harold appears to have played his part in the Irish performance, credited with an early shot on goal and some ‘pretty passing’ moves with Sheridan. The gulf in class between the two sides was all too apparent though as England ran out 4 nil winners.
Over the next six years Harold made a further seven international appearances (1) and scored five goals in the process, (2) he also captained the team once. (3) (4)
The highlight of Harold’s club career came during the 1907/08 season, when Bohemians embarked upon a hard-fought campaign to reach the Irish FA Cup final. The first all-Dublin Irish Challenge Cup final was played at Dalymount Park against Shelbourne on 21 March 1908 in front of a crowd of 8,000 spectators. Bohemians went in at half time one goal ahead, thanks to a goal from Sloan, and held their lead until ten minutes from full time, when an equaliser forced a replay.
The replay, seven days later again at Dalymount Park, saw Bohemians leading 3 – 0 at half time and while Shelbourne tried to batter their opponents in the second half, knocking three of them out, leading to lengthy delays, they only managed one goal and Bohemians ran out 3 – 1 winners.
Harold had been named as club captain for the 1908/09 season and he remained as a player for at least two seasons after that campaign. While the precise date and reason for his retirement from club football cannot be ascertained, it can be stated that he ceased to be mentioned in match reports and squad announcements from the 1911/12 season onwards. His full list of club honours, is five Leinster Senior Cups, three Leinster Senior Leagues and one Irish FA Cup. (5)
Harold married Mabel Fitzgerald Jones on 6 September 1911 at All Saints Church, Grangegorman and built a new home on Green Road in Blackrock in the same year, a son, also named Harold, who was born on 21 December 1913.
Harold did not immediately join up to fight when the war started, but eventually enlisted as Private (9013) in 6th Company, Inns of Court OTC on 19 January 1916 and went to Cadet School on 7 August 1916. He was commissioned in the 198th Royal Garrison Artillery on 18 October 1916.
The 198th went out to the western front on 25 November 1916. A mechanised battery had been formed on the Humber the previous July with an establishment of 158 personnel; inclusive of six officers, one warrant officer, six sergeants and two trumpeters with armament of 4 x 6in Guns Mk VII.
Harold joined 14th Corps on 3 December 1916 in their long range group, then 29th Heavy Artillery Group on 6 December 1916 and was transferred to 49th Heavy Artillery Group on 22 December 1916, the HQ of which was at Combles.
He remained with this battery until his death on the 21 January 1917. The exact circumstances of his death are unknown.
A letter written to his widow on 16 February 1917 informed her that he was buried in the guard’s cemetery at Combles, in a grave marked by ‘a durable wooden cross with an inscription bearing full particulars’.
Harold Sloan’s story has fallen victim to the often quoted “intentional amnesia” of Irish history. His experience and identity do not sit well with any obvious political interest. His caps are officially listed as being with the IFA in Northern Ireland and his alma mater does not list him among the 100 prominent past pupils of the school. While the experience of Irish soldiers in the Great War is undergoing a dramatic re-evaluation, Harold’s story is unlikely to feature prominently in many forums. He has no direct descendants as his only son, also named Harold, was killed in action during the Second World War.
(1) Against Scotland (2), England (2) and Wales (3).
(2) His goals were all scored against Wales including a hat trick in a 4 – 4 draw in April 1906 and the winner in a 1 – 0 victory in April 1908.
(3) He captained the team in a 1 – 0 defeat against England in February, 1907.
(4) He also won two Amateur caps and played twice for the Irish League representative side.
(5) He also had two loser’s medals for the Irish Cup, a 3 – 1 defeat to Distillery in 1902/03, and a 2 – 1 defeat (after a 0 – 0 draw) to Cliftonville in 1908/09.
‘Harold Sloan: A Forgotten Ranger’ by Ciaran Priestley.
Ian Chambers, January 2017.