Lance-Corporal William Edward Harriss

Regiment:  12/13th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (formerly  Rifle Brigade)
Service No:  46416 (formerly S/4629) 
Date and place of birth: 1st qtr 1894 in Northampton
Date and place of death:  28 March 1918 in France

Family background

In 1911, William Edward Harriss, who was born in Northampton, was aged 17. He was working as a tailor’s apprentice and living at home with his parents in North Street, Midhurst, Sussex. His father Robert William Harriss (49) was a bootmaker and dealer and he was born at Tysoe in Warwickshire. His mother, Catherine Ellen Harriss (46) and two sisters Mabel (12) and Dorothy Ellen (9) had all been born at Northampton.

Ten years previously, in1901, the family was living at 10 Mercere Road, Northampton: Robert W Harriss (39) was a bootmaker and shop manager, his wife Catherine (37), two sons, Thomas P (9) and William E (7) and daughter Mabel (5).

Midhurst Grammar School Pupil Admissions 1903 – 1916 records William Edward Harriss, son of William Edward Harriss of North Street, Midhurst, proprietor and shop keeper, being admitted on 15 September 1906. He was granted a three year grant by the trustees of George Ognell Educational Foundation. Prior to this he attended the Midhurst National School for ten months after leaving Kettering Road Board School when they moved from Northampton.

No record has been found for Thomas P Harriss in the 1911 census.

Military service

William Edward Harriss enlisted at Abersy, Monmouthshire and his first service was in France from 29 July 1915.

The 12th and 13th (Service) Battalions were initially formed in Newcastle in September 1914 and by the following May were stationed in Witley, Surrey prior to embarkation and landing in France as part of the 62nd Brigade of the 21st Division. They were deployed as two separate battalions until 10 August 1917 when, due to depletion in their numbers, they were amalgamated and became the 12th/13th Battalion.

On arrival in France they immediately saw action at the Battle of Loos (25 September to 15 October), where the Division suffered nearly 4,000 casualties (the largest suffered by any division at the front), and it took until 1916 before they reached their full complement once more. After which, they took part in the Battles of Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Flers-Courcellette, Marval and many others.

By 21 March 1918 they were entering the First Battle of the Somme (21 March to 5 April).

These early days of the ‘German Spring Offensive’ resulted in 160,000 allied casualties, those who were killed or wounded. 90,000 men were taken prisoner.

From the Midhurst Times 3 May 1918
From the Midhurst Times 3 May 1918

William Harriss was awarded Victory, British and 1915 Star medals.

At the time of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, the Division were at Berlaimont and by December were near Amiens. Demobilisation began shortly after and by 19 May 1919, the Division ceased to exist. In all, the 21st Division suffered the loss of 55,581 killed, wounded or missing.

Death & commemoration

He died on 28 March 1918 in France. He is commemorated on Midhurst War Memorial, Memorial Panels in Midhurst Parish Church and the Board in Midhurst Rother College.

Subsequent family history

The name Thomas P Harris appears on passenger lists as departing on 16 September 1914 from Liverpool for New York and returning from there to Glasgow on 15 March 1915.

According to the Medal Rolls, Thomas P Harris, sapper no 37112 Royal Engineers served in the Egyptian Theatre of War from 6 November 1915. He was awarded Victory, British and 1915 Star medals.

Thomas P Harris married Elsie Hobday of Abingdon in 1923 in the Banbury district.

Thomas Percy Harriss, born 28 January 1892, died in 1979, aged 87, in the Banbury district.

Dorothy E Harriss married Ernest G Lightwood at Northampton in 1928.

Note: The various spellings of the surname are as they appear in the records

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project