Harold went to Mintholme College, Southport, a preparatory school and then on to a place at Shrewsbury School where he did well, participating in school sporting activities and as a member of the school Officer Training Corps.
Harold then achieved entry to Gonville and Caius College , Cambridge matriculating in October 1896 to follow his elder brother Edward, who had matriculated in 1893.
Harold was present at the vote to admit women to the title of degree in May 1897 which was defeated by 1707 to 661 votes. Harold completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1899 and continued his medical studies at Guy's Hospital, London.
Harold was appointed a House Officer at Guy's Hospital.
He then went on to hospital appointments at the Birmingham General Hospital and the David Lewis Northern Hospital , Liverpool.
Harold was of the generation and class where a doctor’s salary was not essential for a comfortable life.
During the next few years, between medical jobs, he travelled to Europe on a number of occasions favouring river cruises.
In 1908 he secured a British Medical Association scholarship and became a Research Scholar at Downing College, in the Pharmacological Laboratory and then in the Institute for the study of Animal Nutrition, Department of Agriculture, Cambridge.
Harold worked with Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, Professor of Biochemistry and published three papers on Purine metabolism.
Harold was a loyal and extremely conscientious person, typical of his generation.
In spite of being deeply involved in scientific research at Cambridge it appears Harold decided to join up in early 1915 and was commissioned Temporary Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps on 15 February 1915.
He was attached as Medical Officer to the 6th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment
He went to training camps in Colchester and at Codford St Mary on the edge of the Salisbury Plain.
The Division sailed for France on 25 July 1915 and was posted to the Somme front
On 15 February 1916 Harold was promoted to Temporary Captain (all enlisted officers, volunteer officers, were given a temporary rank to distinguish them from regular Army officers).
Harold’s letter of 9 July 1916 written from the rest area behind the lines described how the Battalion fared.
Delville Wood might with every justification be regarded as the grave of the 53rd Brigade as it was constituted when it landed in France.
It was here during fierce fighting for the possession of the wood on 19 July 1916 that Harold Ackroyd acted with such bravery that he was recommended eleven times for the award of the Victoria Cross.
He was in the event awarded the Military Cross for this action.
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during operations.
He attended the wounded under heavy fire, and finally, when he had seen that all our wounded from behind the line had been got in, he went out beyond the front line and brought in both our own and enemy wounded, although continually sniped at."
The following account of the action is based upon "The 18th Division in the Great War" by Captain G H F Nicholls (1922).
Captain Ackroyd, the Medical Officer of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, was described as a heroic figure during those two days of July. "The fighting was so confused and the wood so hard to search that the difficulties in evacuating the wounded seemed insuperable but Ackroyd, bespectacled and stooping, was so cool and purposeful and methodical that he cleared the whole wood of wounded British and Bosh as well."
Harold rescued many of the wounded from the 1st Infantry Brigade (South Africa) and there is a memorial to him in the room commemorating Delville Wood at Fort Beaufort Historical Museum, Southe Africa.
He left the battalion on 11 August 1916 to return to England on sick leave.
He was given six weeks' leave by the Army Medical Board and convalesced with his family in Cornwall and Royston.
The nature of his injury is uncertain although a letter from Alfred J Clark dated 13 August 1917 to his widow Mabel suggested:
"We were all half sorry when he returned after getting blown up last July, we knew that if he came back he would go on taking appalling risks and that the end was almost a certainty. He of course knew this equally well."
This confirms that Harold was indeed injured in some way: when he returned to the front in the middle of November he took to wearing goggles to protect his eyes.
However, he seems to have recovered quickly because in a letter to his brother Edward, dated 4 September after one week, he stated that "I am now quite well and fit to return to duty".
He could not understand why he had been given so much sick leave and called the Army Medical Board "a bunch of old fossils."
He also said ″I would hate the Battalion to go into action without me″.
He was passed fit for service on 3 October and on 20 October was awarded the Military Cross for his actions in Delville Wood.
He rejoined the regiment in November 1916.
The month of July 1917 was spent in preparation for the Ypres offensive: the third battle of Ypres, known as The Battle of Passchendaele.
The battle commenced on 31 July 1917.
The role of the 18th Division was to leapfrog the 30th Division after they had taken what became known as "the Black Line" through Glencorse Wood.
Disaster struck and by a tragic mistake the 30th Division infantry wheeled to their left and assaulted Chateau Wood instead of Glencorse Wood.
The misleading information that Glencorse Wood was in British hands caused the 53rd Brigade to plunge into a fatal gap.
During 31 July and 1 August the 53rd Brigade fought against a fully prepared enemy for ground which the 30th Division should have taken.
This fateful error caused the offensive in Glencorse Wood to be held up for several days with fierce fighting throughout this period.
Captain Nicholls in his history of the 18th Division records ″in all that hellish turmoil, there had been one quiet figure, most heroic, most wonderful of all. Dr Ackroyd, the 6th Berks Medical Officer, a stooping, grey haired, bespectacled man rose to the supreme heights that day.
He seemed to be everywhere; he tended and bandaged scores of men for to him fell the rush of cases around Clapham Junction and towards Hooge. But no wounded man was treated hurriedly or unskilfully.
Ackroyd worked as stoically as if he were in the quiet of an operating theatre.
Complete absorption in his work was probably his secret.
When it was all over there were 23 separate recommendations of his name for the Victoria Cross.″
An extract from "The London Gazette," dated 4th Sept., 1917, reads as follows:-
For most conspicuous bravery.
During recent operations Capt. Ackroyd displayed the greatest gallantry and devotion to duty.
Utterly regardless of danger, he worked continuously for many hours up and down and in front of the line tending the wounded and saving the lives of officers and men.
In so doing he had to move across the open under heavy machine-gun, rifle and shell fire.
He carried a wounded officer to a place of safety under very heavy fire.
On another occasion he went some way in front of our advanced line and brought in a wounded man under continuous sniping and machine-gun fire.
His heroism was the means of saving many lives, and provided a magnificent example of courage, cheerfulness, and determination to the fighting men in whose midst he was carrying out his splendid work. This gallant officer has since been killed in action.
Harold`s second in command Private Albert Scriven wrote to his widow Mabel on 16 September describing what happened:
"I was acting orderly corporal and on hearing the news I took a party of stretcher bearers but on arrival found he was dead. There were six other poor fellows in the same shell hole who met the same fate, it was a perfect death trap. He was visiting each company about 150yds ahead of us to see if there were any wounded to attend to and was shot in the head by a sniper."
Harold came through 31 July unscathed but died eleven days later on 11 August in Jargon Trench on the western edge of Glencorse Wood, shot in the head by a sniper.
Harold`s body was evacuated and buried in Birr Cross Roads Cemetery.
His headstone reads "Believed to be buried in this cemetery.