THE EXECUTION OF ERNEST WALTER "JACK" HARRIS 1897 - 1917

The following information was obtained from the web-site of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The first table gives the bare details of Jack's military career and his place of burial

Nationality:

United Kingdom

Rank:

Private

Regiment:

Lancashire Fusiliers

Unit Text:

"C" Coy. 10th Battalion.

Age:

20

Date of Death:

03/02/1917

Service No:

23992

Additional information:

Son of Edward and Lavinia Harris, of 90, Nether Edge Rd., Sheffield.

Casualty Type:

Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:

Z. 11.

Cemetery:

CARNOY MILITARY CEMETERY 

Carnoy is a village just north of the road, D938, from Albert to Peronne, about 10 kilometres east-south-east of Albert. The Military Cemetery is on the south side of the village. The cemetery was begun in August, 1915, by the 2nd King's Own Scottish Borderers and the 2nd King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, when the village was immediately south of the British front line. It continued in use by troops holding this sector until July, 1916, when Field Ambulances came up and a camp was established on the higher ground north of the village. It was closed in March, 1917. From March to August, 1918, it was in German hands, and German (and a few British) graves were made between the British graves and the entrance. There was also in a German Cemetery alongside; but the German graves and the German Cemetery were removed in 1924. There are now over 850, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, nearly 30 are unidentified and special memorials are erected to 17 soldiers and one airman from the United Kingdom, known or believed to be buried among them

Notes

Known as Jack, he had already deserted twice from the Lancashire Fusiliers and was under a suspended sentence of death when he deserted again. He was the second soldier from Sheffield to be executed, the first being James Haddock. Putkowski and Sykes state that the 20 year old infantryman was “of very bad character” and so I can only assume that this phrasing was taken from the official court martial papers.

Of course what the papers don't reveal is that Jack came from a very large family . I checked the 1901 Census and located the family in

27 Weaste Road, Pendleton, West Salford, Lancashire (PRO Ref RG13/3715 Page 6 No 37)

NAME Age Rel Occupation Place of Birth
HARRIS Edward 44 Head Commercial Traveller Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England
HARRIS Lavinia 42 Wife   Great Waltham, Essex, England
HARRIS  Sydney H 18 Son Mechanical Engineer Birmingham, Warwickshire, England
HARRIS Gilbert F 16 Son Grocers Assistant Birmingham, Warwickshire, England
HARRIS Leonard E 15 Son  - Assistant Birmingham, Warwickshire, England
HARRIS Edith G 6 Daughter At School Selly Oak, Worcestershire, England
HARRIS Cyril A 5 Son At School Selly Oak, Worcestershire, England
HARRIS Ernest W 4 Son   Selly Oak, Worcestershire, England
HARRIS Norman 3 Son   Salford, Lancashire, England
HARRIS Norah 1 Son   Salford, Lancashire, England

The 1911 Census has the following information

Name Ernest Walter Harris
Relationship to Head of Household Son
Gender Male Age 14
Estimated Year of Birth 1897
Occupation Tool Worker Engineers
Employed Yes
Working at Home No
Industry Twist Drills
Place of Birth Worcester Bournebrook
Enumerator Information
Address 84 Sheldon Road Sheffield Parish Ecclesall Town Sheffield
Type of Building Private House Number of Rooms Nine Inhabited Yes
Reference RG14PN27784 RG78PN1591 RD509 SD5 ED6 SN36 Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding) Registration District Ecclesall Bierlow
Registration Sub District Ecclesall South Enumeration District 6

The following information was obtained from Webmatters - CWGC pages on Carnoy Military Cemetery
Private Ernest Harris 23992
10th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers
Died on 3rd February 1917 aged 20
Son of Edward and Lavinia Harris, of 90, Nether Edge Rd., Sheffield

Private Harris who was known as Jack was serving in the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers in 17th Division. He had already received two previous suspended sentences the latter being a death sentence. When he went AWOL for a third time his fate was sealed.
Grave Z11

Next to Jack is the grave of another soldier executed by the British Army

Driver Robert Murray 96498
147th Brigade Royal Field Artillery
Died on 3rd February 1917
Husband of Edith Murray, of Helmingham Road, Otley, near Ipswich, Suffolk

Grave: Z 10
Driver Murray had arrived in France on the 25th September 1915 and was granted leave the following year. When he returned he decided to go absent. However rather than try his arm in getting back to England Murray managed to make his way to the south of France where he set up home with a prostitute. He made the mistake of arguing with her and she reported him to the Gendarmerie who promptly had him arrested.

According to the places of birth the family seem to have moved around the Midlands until settling in Lancashire in 1898. Was it this move to Lancashire that was instrumental in leading Jack to join (or be conscripted) into the Lancashire Fusiliers and so set in motion the sequence of events that led to his execution?

Sources

Unquiet Graves Guide  Execution sites of the First World War in Flanders - Piet Chielens and Julian Putkowski 
Rusteloze graven gids – Executieplaatsen uit de Eerste Wereldoorlog in de Westhoek
The Guide is centred on the countryside around Ieper (Ypres) and Poperinge in the Westhoek of Flanders and visits the places of execution and graves of men 'shot at dawn' by the British Army in the Great War.

Shot at Dawn - Julian Putkowski and Julian Sykes - The standard reference work about soldiers executed under the British Army Act in the First World War (1989).

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

1901 UK Census

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This page was last updated on 16/05/11 11:32