Private Ralph Claudian Willis-Harris

Regiment:   24th Battalion Victoria Rifles, Canadian Infantry
Service no. :  65418
Date and place of birth: 7 August 1892 in Pulborough, Sussex
Date and place of death:  9 November 1915 in France

 Family background

Ralph Claudian Willis-Harris was the son of William Willis-Harris and Ada Sarah Willis-Harris.

William Willis-Harris died in Midhurst on 15 September 1899. His profession was given as ‘gentleman’ and his address was ‘Park View’ Dodsley, Midhurst. He was 39 years of age. Probate was granted to his widow Sarah Willis-Harris.

Ada Sarah Willis-Harris married Thomas Charles Popplewell in 1900.

In 1901 Thomas Charles Popplewell (25), brewer, Ada Sarah Popplewell (30), Karl M Harris (10), and Ralph C Harris (5), were living at Crescent Lodge, Easebourne, Sussex.

Ralph Claudian attended Midhurst Grammar School, but no records could be found.

In 1911 Thomas Charles Popplewell (34), brewer, Ada Sarah Popplewell (40), Karl Marks Willis Harris (20), clerk in building trade, and Mary Violet Popplewell (8) were living at 1 Maida Villas, Easebourne, Midhurst.

In 1911 Ralph Claudian Willis-Harris was a boarder, living at 3 Lewisham Hill, Lewisham, SE. He was 18 and his employment given as bank clerk. The head of the household was Henry Culverwell (67), bookbinder foreman, and with him were his wife, Sarah Martha (53), Mary Battall (70), widow, of independent means, and Martha Sophia Craig (58), visitor, married, of independent means.

He was an employee of the Bank of British North America, first in London and then in Montreal.

 Military service

Ralph Claudian Willis-Harris volunteered at the outbreak of war and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in October 1914.

He came over with the second contingent on 20 May 1915 and went to France in September of the same year.

Death and commemoration

Ralph Willis-Harris died 9 November 1915 of wounds received the previous day while assisting to carry a wounded comrade to the dressing station.

Major R O Alexander wrote:

‘Your son was a very gallant soldier and a very fine man. I feel as if I had lost a friend, and undoubtedly one of the most valuable men in my company’

Lieutenant A L S Mills wrote:

‘In case you have not heard the details, he was helping to carry a comrade (Private Dines) who afterwards died of wounds, to the dressing station when they were seen by the enemy who opened fire on them with machine guns. Your son was hit and had himself to be carried to the dressing station with Diver. He bore any pain he may have suffered with such wonderful nerve that everyone expected him to be up and about again in a very short time. Your son was one of my finest men and ever since the sad news of his death came out, his friends have seemed absolutely stunned. He never shirked any work that came his way; in fact time and time again he volunteered for extra duties. He could always be entirely depended upon, and could easily have become a non-commissioned officer but preferred to remain a Private with his friends.’

Ralph Claudian Willis-Harris is buried in the military cemetery at Bailleul, Extension Nord, grave 1.C.43.

He is commemorated on the Board in Midhurst Rother College and on the Easebourne War Memorial.

Subsequent family history

Karl Marks Willis-Harris married Catherine Andrew in 1918.

Thomas Charles Popplewell of Maida Villa Easebourne, brewer and licensed victualler died 13 June 1922. Probate was granted to his widow Ada Sarah Popplewell.

Mary Violet Popplewell married James T Comber in 1928

Ada Sarah Popplewell died 26 May 1963. Her address was 31 Hove Park Villas, Hove, Sussex. Probate was granted to John Wilfred Dawtrey bank clerk.


Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project