George James Harris

The following biography was written by Victoria Doran.

GEORGE JAMES HARRIS

George James Harris

George James Harris

George James Harris was born in the spring of 1890 at 3 Henshall Street, Chester and baptised at St Oswald on 9th May. He was the second of the three sons of John Edmund Harris (1847-1926) and Rhoda Jane Charlton (1856-1902). He was one of the middle children in a large family as he also had seven sisters. Whilst by no means wealthy, the family were financially secure throughout his life. 

His father came from Bristol, Gloucestershire where George’s grandfather John Harris was a licensed victualler and sometime commission agent, employing a household servant at the 1861 census. His grandfather left almost £800 when he died in 1871, so the family would have been comfortably off. John Edmund Harris became a regular soldier. We know nothing for certain about his army service before he married Rhoda Jane Charlton on 31 Dec 1877 at St Peter, Frimley, Surrey. The marriage was urgent at Rhoda must have been at least seven months pregnant at the time. He cannot be found on the 1871 census, and at the time of his marriage gave his residence as London, and his occupation as soldier. It is probable he had served abroad and met Rhoda whilst garrisoned in the Camberley area. By the time eldest daughter Mabel was baptised at St Bridget, Chester on 3 Mar 1878, the family were living in the Militia Barracks in Chester and he was a sergeant. At the 1881 census he was clerk in the orderly office of the 1st Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment.  

Cheshire Regiment Badge

Cheshire Regiment Badge

By the time the fourth child, Ethel, was baptised in 1884 he had risen to the rank of Sergeant Major, though the family still lived in the barracks. By 1886 and the baptism of the sixth child Constance, the family had moved out of barracks to 27 Henshall Street. About 1892 they moved again to Lorne Cottage, Louise Street, presumably to give more space for the growing family, and moved once again to Nun’s Road by 1895 when youngest daughter Sybil was baptised. By the time Alfred the youngest child was baptised on 31st August 1900, John Edmund Harris had retired from the army and the family had moved yet again, this time to 27 Castle Street. They were still there at the 1901 census, when John Edmund Harris was employed as manager of the barracks canteen. 

By the time George’s mother Rhoda died in on 9th August 1902, the family must have moved to West Kirby as she was buried in St Bridget church yard. George was aged 12 when his mother died. Although somewhat difficult to read, George is commemorated on the same rather neglected grave marker as his parents.

Harris Family Grrave St. Bridget's Church Yard

Harris Family Grave in St. Bridget’s Church Yard, West Kirby

In West Kirby the family lived at 101 Banks Road, where John Edmund Harris had a tobacconist and hairdessing shop. George became a cabinet maker as did his older brother John Edmund Charlton Harris (1881-1927). His mother Rhoda Jane Charlton came from a long line of carpenters and joiners, who mostly lived in or near Hartley Witney in Hampshire. Her father George Charlton was a carpenter who had fluctuating fortunes. In 1861 he had risen to a builder employing eight men and four boys, but by 1871 he was merely a carpenter again. In 1881 he was again a builder, but when he died he left nothing significant. She also had many uncles, brothers, cousins and great uncles who were carpenters and joiners. Her mother died probably before she was 10 years old, and by the age of 14 she had a step mother.

We know from newspaper reports that George ‘was associated with’ the firm of Harris & Rainford of Banks Road, West Kirby. The firm was started sometime between 1911 and 1914 and its proprietors were George’s brother John and Reginald Rainford, son of Joseph and Mary Rainford of Yew Tree Cottage, Grange Road, and scion of a local family. Reginald was an upholsterer, so it is no great surprise to find that John Harris was a house furnisher when he died rather young in 1927. Presumably George worked making furniture for Harris & Rainford. 

Harris and Rainford Entry in Kelly's Directory of 1914

Harris and Rainford Entry in Kelly’s Directory of 1914

George joined ‘H’ Company of the 4th battalion of the Cheshire Regiment as a Territorial not long after he was old enough, and had served five years with them by the time war broke out in 1914, and so was mobilised immediately. He is reported to have acted as a musketry instructor during the battalion’s training, and was regarded as ‘a chip off the old block’. He rose to sergeant ‘through meritorious work’, and ‘his genial nature made him exceedingly popular in his Regiment’. On 8th August 1915, he arrived with his Battalion in the Balkans and was shot through the head at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli 4 days later aged 24.  His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli.

Helles Memorial Gallipoli

Helles Memorial Gallipoli

Notes
Birth: April 1890 at 3 Hensahll street, Chester
Death: 12 Aug 1915 at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli; killed in action
Addresses: 3 Henshall Street, Chester (91); Lorne Cottage, Louise Street, Chester (93); 27 Castle Street, Chester (01); 101 Banks Road, West Kirby (11)
Occupation: Cabinet Maker
Unit: H’ Company 1st / 4th Battalion Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 1188; Sergeant
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated: GH, WK, Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey; panels 75 to 77; St Bridget Church Yard, West Kirby; St Bridget & St Andrew, West Kirby
Sources: BR, SDGW, CWGC, MC, DA, Census: 91, 01, 11, BR, PR; Probate

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