Cyril Harris died 85 years ago today on 26th September 1918 in a German Prisoner of War Camp in France. He was 19 years old. As a child I met two of his brothers Arthur and Harry and can remember stories told at family gatherings about him and his siblings. I now own the few remaining documents that mark his brief existence. I have scanned these documents and present them here as a way of preserving them and his memory.
Cyril Harris was born in 1898 or 1899 at 16 Radcliffe Road, in the Hough (pronounced Hoff) district of Bolton, Lancashire in the United Kingdom. He was the seventh of eight children of William Henry Harris and his wife Mary Harris. His brothers were Robert, William, Harry, Jack, Arthur, and his sisters Annie, and Leah. He is said to have attended Hough School in Bolton, as did his brothers and sisters, from the age of 5 until he was 14 years old.
According to the Harris family, he was strongly advised to avoid involvement in the 1914-18 war by his brothers, all of them already serving in the forces and aware of the conditions in France and Belgium. Indeed there was no pressing need for him to do so and he was still under age for military service when he volunteered, which as probably in 1915 or 1916.
He joined the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and served in the 9th Battalion. He was captured in France and ended his days in a German prison camp. He died on the 26th September 1918 just a few weeks before the war ended. It is said that he died of starvation as, in the confusion of near defeat, his captors themselves had little food and still less for their prisoners.
His commemorative scroll and medals were sent to his brother Arthur when the war was ended and eventually, long after Arthur died, were found among the effects of their sister Leah. He is buried in the military cemetery at Glageon near Avenses in northern France some 10-15 km from Arras. In the 1960s his brother Arthur visited the cemetery and returned with a few photographs of the grave.
A Letter to me from Peter. M. Harris my father (the grandson of Cyril’s older brother Robert) 9th September 2000
This article appeared in the Bolton Evening News, 1918 (Probably October or November). It is not strictly accurate as Cyril’s brother Jack was in the navy and therefore not a soldier. This is the only existing photo of Cyril.
Six or seven months after the article in the Bolton evening news was published his mother received this form letter from the War Office
No 14 5220 (If replying, please quote above No.) Army from B 104-82
Kings Royal Rifle Corps Record Office, Winchester May 12th 1919
It is my painful duty to inform you that a report has been received from the War Office notifying the death of :- (No.) R/9237 (Rank) Rfm (Name) C. Harris (Regiment) 9th Kings Royal Rifle Corps. which occurred at Trelon. on the 26th September 1918. The report is to the effect that he Died whilst a Prisoner of war (Cause not stated), I am to express the regret of the Army Council at the soldier’s death In his Country’s services.
I am to add that any information that may be received as to the soldier’s burial will be communicated to you in due course. A separate leaflet dealing more fully with this subject is enclosed.
Buried in Glageon Cemetery Grave No 172 H
I am, Madam Your obedient Servant, F. Sco? for L’Col Officer in Charge of Records
His grave (Reference No. II. H. 6.) is in the Northern extension of the Glageon Communal Cemetery, France. and is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who also maintain his Online Registry entry
This picture shows Cyril Harris’s brother Arthur Harris standing next to his grave on May 5 th 1960. The date is carefully recorded on the back of the photo and seems to be significant since Cyril and Arthur’s elder brother William Harris. Private 11511. 2nd Bn., Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regt.) died on May 5th 1915 at Hill 60 during the second Battle of Ypres. It seems Arthur timed his visit to France to coincide with the 45 anniversary of William’s death.
Finally Cyril must have nominated his brother Arthur as next of kin when he joined the army since his medal and commemorative scroll were sent to Arthur after the war.
Update 2011-01. Since writing this post another photograph of Cyril has been discovered. This is a much clearer photograph that really highlights Cyril’s youth