Henry John (Curly) HARRIS

HARRIS, Henry John

Service Number: 7270
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 9th Infantry Battalion
Born: 9 July 1894, place not yet discovered
Home Town: Rockhampton, Rockhampton, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Carpenter
Died: Natural causes , Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, 6 November 1984, aged 90 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
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World War 1 Service

24 Jan 1917: Involvement Private, 7270, 9th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '9' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: HMAT Ayrshire embarkation_ship_number: A33 public_note: ''
24 Jan 1917: Embarked Private, 7270, 9th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ayrshire, Sydney

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Biography contributed by Danelle Harris

Background Information

What is the Memoir about?  And by whom?

The memoir document is written by my paternal grandfather, Henry John Harris, who at the ages of twenty-two and twenty-three  fought in the First World War in France from 1917-18. The memoir records his first experience at the front lines in France. In 1918 Henry was gassed in a shell hole by mustard gas; he convalesced in England before being sent home in 1919. Lance Corporal Harris was downgraded from a “Class A1” soldier to a “Class B2” soldier and was discharged from the army as medically unfit. By profession, Henry was a carpenter and also an artist of wood carvings. He married my grandmother at the age of thirty-four and they had five children. Henry died in 1984 at the age of 90.

Canadian Connection

Henry Harris was a second-generation Australian (Irish ancestry) from Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia. His survival of WWI meant that my father, Henry's second-born son, would eventually emigrate to Vancouver, B.C., Canada in 1961 and meet my mother. I am the Canadian granddaughter, Danelle Harris.

When was the memoir written?

Henry wrote his front line memoir some time during the 1970s. What is so fascinating about his written experience is that even after about 60 years, it is very descriptive, detailed and yet completely devoid of emotion words; Henry does describe physical sensations such as cold and exhaustion, but no emotional feelings. It's like the entire experience was branded or imprinted on to his memory.

The handwritten account was originally written on air mail parchment. Henry's hand writing was elegant and beautiful – a work of art compared to handwriting nowadays.

In September 2000 I typed up Henry Harris' memoir basically word for word, without changing the sentence structure, except when the meaning appeared unclear.  I believe I have preserved his grammar, spelling, and voice in the piece.

From observations by my father, Henry seemed to suffer from episodes of shell shock, or post traumatic stress, as people call it now. My father recounts how when my granddad talked about his war experiences, he became very upset and would begin to cry. My father says that my grandmother would become angry with granddad and scold him for talking about the The War because he would get so upset. My father also remembers that my granddad would sometimes just sit and stare off into space and seem completely absent.

And as a last bit of info, I've been told that my granddad was entitled to a soldier’s pension when he returned from France, and that he was too proud to accept it at that time. In the 1970s he asked the Australian Government if he was still entitled to his soldier’s pension, and he was told that he was not.