James Logie (Hamish) HARCUS

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HARCUS, James Logie

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 14 August 1914, Sydney, New South Wales
Last Rank: Major
Last Unit: 20th Infantry Battalion
Born: Heatherbank, Westray, Orkney, Scotland, 22 November 1881
Home Town: Manly, Manly Vale, New South Wales
Schooling: Midbea Public School, Westray, Orkney, Scotland & Heriot Watt College, Edinburgh, Scotland
Occupation: Barrister at Law
Died: Killed in Action, Russell's Top, Gallipoli, 11 December 1915, aged 34 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Originally buried in Walker's Ridge Cemetery, Gallipoli - later unable to locate grave.
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Lone Pine Memorial to the Missing
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World War 1 Service

14 Aug 1914: Enlisted Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Forces (New Guinea 1914), Captain, 1st Infantry Battalion, Naval and Military Forces - Special Tropical Corps, Sydney, New South Wales
4 Mar 1915: Discharged Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Forces (New Guinea 1914), Captain, 1st Infantry Battalion, Naval and Military Forces - Special Tropical Corps
2 May 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Captain, 20th Infantry Battalion, Sydney, New South Wales
1 Jun 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Major, 20th Infantry Battalion
26 Jun 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Major, 20th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Berrima, Sydney
26 Jun 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, 20th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
16 Aug 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, 20th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
11 Dec 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, SN Officer, 20th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli

Help us honour James Logie Harcus's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Geoffrey Gillon

James was born on a farm in Westray, one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland.

His father, Andrew, had taken over the farm of 32 acres of which 14 were arable after working as a teacher, but died at Heatherbank of pneumonia when James was only seven years old, leaving his widow, Jane (née Logie), as head of the household including five children.  James completed his schooling at Midbea Public School in Westray, then moved into Kirkwall to board with his uncle, George Harcus in Bridge Street Wynd, and started work as an apprentice law clerk.  By then James was known to his family and friends as “Hamish”. 

On the 31st January 1899 he also started on his other main career path, joining the volunteer gunners in the Orkney Royal Garrison Artillery. He left Orkney on  the 12th May 1904 to study law in at Heriot Watt College, Edinburgh and joined Midlothian RGA volunteers on the 22nd May. However on the 29th November he transferred to the 9th Volunteer Battalion (Highlanders), The Royal Scots. Unusually for an Orcadian, he learned to speak Gaelic. 

Having completed his law degree, he left London on the 14th June 1907 for Sydney, Australia, where a cousin, George Harcus, already lived.  He set to work establishing himself as a Barrister-at-Law, so it was not until the 19th December 1910 that he found time to obtain a commission in the Scottish Rifles, New South Wales (soon became 25th Infantry). He qualified as a barrister in 1912.

He had still not married when war broke out, which made it easier for him to give up his legal practice and join the Army. 

On the 14th August 1914 he applied for a commission in the 1st Contingent , Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force and was appointed the rank of Captain on the 18th August. as officer commanding the machine gun section , He left Sydney on HMAS "Berrima" the next day and sailed to Rabaul, New Guinea. James's were the only soldiers to take part in the fighting to overpower the German garrison there, the rest being navy men. He returned to Sydney at the end of February 1915.

On the 2nd May 1915, James Harcus was appointed Captain in the Australian Imperial Force and joined its 20th Battalion in 5th Brigade. Hamish was promoted to Major in command of "D" company on the 1st of June, then embarked at Sydney, [again on HMAT A35 "Berrima"] on the 26th June for service abroad.

By the time 5th Brigade reached Egypt, the new 2nd Australian Division was forming and completing its training there. However, the 5th Brigade was rushed to Gallipoli to reinforce the tired Anzac and 1st Australian Divisions in their attempt to breakout from the Anzac bridgehead at Sari Bair. When Hamish Harcus landed at Anzac on the 16th August, the main advance on Chunuk Bair had failed, breaking down in confusion in difficult terrain and because of determined Turkish resistance and overwhelming counter-attacks. The 17th and 18th Battalions of the 5th Brigade joined the series of attacks that failed to complete the capture of Hill 60 and lost heavily in the fierce fighting, but the 20th Battalion was spared that ordeal.

By the end of the August the situation at Anzac had reverted back to static trench warfare, with the Turks still holding the vital high ground. The 2nd Australian Division took over most of the defences at Anzac, while the exhausted original Anzac brigades were withdrawn to the nearby island of Lemnos for a rest. The 20th Battalion took over on the 26th August the defences on Russell's Top, where it remained until the withdrawal. Although improved sanitary arrangements lowered sickness rates among the new arrivals, James Harcus was admitted to hospital in the 5th Field Ambulance with dysentery on the 16th October and did not return to his unit until the 1st of November.

The 20th Battalion was dealt a devastating blow on the 11th December, when a Turkish shell burst in one of its saps on Russell’s Top, killing three of its senior officers. They were checking the ground to plan the gradual thinning out of the troops holding the Battalion line prior to the evacuation from Anzac just over a week later.  That difficult operation was carried out without discovery by the Turks, but James Harcus did not live to slip away with his company. He and Major Richard Jenkins were killed outright by the exploding shell, while Major Gordon Uther was fatally wounded and died later that day.

 James Harcus was 34 years old when he was killed on Russell’s Top on the 11th December 1915.  The three brother officers were buried next day in the cemetery at the foot of Walker’s Ridge, but the graves of Majors James Harcus and Richard Jenkins could not be located when the Imperial War Graves Commission consolidated the Anzac cemeteries after the war ended.  Their names are therefore commemorated together on Panel 64 of the Lone Pine Memorial.

In the United Kingdom, he is remembered on the WESTRAY WAR MEMORIAL located at Pierowall, Westray, KW17,Scotland.

 

Genealogical data:

 

Parents: HARCUS, Andrew b Abt 1848 d Abt 1889 m LOGIE, Jane Maria b 10 December 1844 d May 1935

Siblings:

HARCUS, William b 14 April 1873 - Orkney, Scotland

HARCUS, Margaret J b 28 December 1875 - Orkney, Scotland d 8 January 1959 - Burlington, Racine, Wisconsin, USA m January 1903 FERGUS, William Colville b 14 February 1878 - Nether Trenabie Westray, Orkney, Scotland d 31 August 1953 - Racine County, Wisconsin, USA

HARCUS, John Logie b 16 December 1878 - Orkney, Scotland

 HARCUS, Elizabeth Miller b 5 August 1886 - Orkney, Scotland

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