Edward (Toiler) HARRISON



Service Number: 4024
Enlisted: 5 July 1915, Melbourne, Vic.
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 24th Infantry Battalion
Born: Bright, Victoria, Australia, 26 June 1884
Home Town: Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
Schooling: Porepunkah State School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Police constable
Died: Died of wounds, France, 13 March 1917, aged 32 years
Cemetery: Etaples Military Cemetery
Plot XXII, Row B, Grave No. 14A, Etaples Military Cemetery, Etaples, Nord Pas de Calais, France
Memorials: Albert Park South Melbourne & Sydney Swans Football Club Honour Roll, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

5 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 4024, 24th Infantry Battalion, Melbourne, Vic.
8 Feb 1916: Involvement Private, SN 4024, 24th Infantry Battalion
8 Feb 1916: Embarked Private, SN 4024, 24th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Warilda, Melbourne
28 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 4024, 24th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières
22 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 4024, 24th Infantry Battalion, Mouquet Farm
4 Sep 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Corporal, 24th Infantry Battalion, France
27 Sep 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Sergeant, 24th Infantry Battalion, France
4 Mar 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 4024, 24th Infantry Battalion, German Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line and Outpost Villages, Serious GSW to head and face. Evacuated to 7th Canadian General Hospital, Etaples, where he died of his wounds 13 March 1917.
13 Mar 1917: Involvement Sergeant, SN 4024, 24th Infantry Battalion

Constable Edward Harrison† 5352

Police Station, South Melbourne, Victoria
One of eight children registered under the John William Harrison and Harriett Norley parentage, Edward Harrison was the third of six sons and two daughters. Although registered at Bright, Edward recorded his Porepunkah, Victoria as his place of birth. The rural township at the junction of Ovens and Buckland Rivers developed from the ‘Junction station’ squatted upon by Thomas Buckland in 1844; reputedly named during a storm when Hindu words for ‘wind’ and ‘blower’ seemed appropriate; originally the location was called Ovens Crossing.
Arriving some 32 years after the Buckland Valley goldrush, Ed Harrison completed his primary education prior to the 1897 arrival of the last registered child, Pansy Grace.
Born on 26 June 1884, Ed Harrison developed his Australian Rules football skills at Beechworth, prior to journeying to Melbourne.
A 5’9½” tall labourer, Ed became known as ‘Toiler’ Harrison whilst playing for South Melbourne Football Club in the Victorian Football League [VFL] in 1906, being appointed to the Victoria Police Force on 3 August 1907 at 23 years of age. Perhaps a year where he found himself at a ‘lose end’ as he was not registered with South Melbourne that year.
Transitioning from labourer to policeman at the Bourke District Depot [03 August – 02 October 1907], ‘Toiler’ Harrison was posted to Russell Street Police Station for foot patrol duty.
Transferring to Carlton [03 December 1907 - 16 September 1911] the young constable failed to properly work his foot patrol beat; was absent from parades without excuse; as well as being found asleep on his beat at 2.30 a.m. In February 1908, the 24 years of age ‘Toiler’ was discovered absent from his beat and when located found to be too drunk to continue duty, for which he was duly fined 40 shillings.
Returning to Russell Street for ‘misconduct’ Perhaps an older head took the ‘Toiler’ under wing as 1908 saw him again registered with South Melbourne Football Club, continuing into following season, he managed nine VFL games without troubling the goal umpires.
In 1911 the birth of William Edward Harrison was registered at Carlton, Victoria under the parentage of Agnes Miller and Edward Harrison.
Transferring on 9 November 1911 from Russell Street to Bourke District before going to Hotham Hill ‘to fill a vacancy’ on 6 November 1912 ‘Toiler’ Harrison was posted to South Melbourne ‘For the good of the Service’
Without incident Ed ‘Toiler’ Harrison performed his police duties at South Melbourne however in January 1913 he was charged with ‘displaying discourteousness and insolence to a Senior Constable’.
On 7 July 1915 31 years of age, Constable Edward ‘Toiler’ Harrison 5352 was discharged from the Victoria Police Force at own request to join the Australian Imperial Force [AIF].
Assigned to the 24th Battalion, ‘Toiler’ Harrison formed a surfeit of recruits arriving at Broadmeadows army camp from which the battalion was formed comprising Victorian volunteers. Very little training was conducted prior to embarkation from Melbourne aboard HMAT A69 Warilda on 8 February 1916,
Completing training in Egypt during July and August, the ‘Toiler’ and his comrades were set to Gallipoli in early September as part of the 2nd Division reinforcements for the April landed troops. Arriving on the peninsula on 4 September 1915, the 24th served on the Lone Pine sector, taking responsibility for the front line on 12 September.
Positioned closely to the Turkish trenches in tenuous, fiercely contested positions, the troops being rotated with the 23rd and 24th Battalions held the line for the remainder of the campaign until the December 1915 Gallipoli evacuation.
Defending the Suez Canal the 24th Battalion was reinforced by others including Ed ‘Toiler’ Harrison. The February 1916 ‘doubling’ of the AIF witnessed the 24th Battalion travelling to the Western Front, to fight in the battles of Pozières/Mouquet Farm [July-September 1916].
Being promoted to temporary Corporal [04-26 September 1916] during these ferocious battles, Ed ’Toiler’ Harrison obviously proved his worth. Achieving promotion to Sergeant 27 September 1916 – 12 February 1917 followed by further advancement to Temporary Company Sergeant Major [13 February - 03 March 1917].
In a February 1917 letter to a friend in Bright, ‘Toiler’ wrote –
"Having a few moments to spare, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know I am still alive and in good trim - just about good enough to win another Alpine Wheel Race, having got down to my racing weight through hard work.
“We are having a fairly good time here - plenty of fight. I have been through all the 'stouch' here since June and I can tell you there was something doing. You could never imagine what it was like. I suppose you have read of it in the papers.
“I would line to be up on the old Bright track again. Those were the best days of my life, and I never realised it until now.
“The French are fine people when you get to know them, but their lingo is, well – I do not know what to call it. You can understand people in Egypt, but when it comes to French, I call a halt. We manage to get along somehow. I have been from one end of France to the other, and all over the middle of it.
“Well, about 'Fritz': He is not much of a guy when you get up against him, but he is a great long distance fighter, and would also make a good wombat, the way he digs himself in. I can tell you he takes rooting out, but we will manage it alright in time. He is a fine artillery shot, and his coal box is something to gamble upon.
“I have seen quite a number of the boys here, and they all look well. The three Rayners [Jim, Wye and George], Jim Smith, Bruce Kidd, Billy Miller, Jock Lowen, and Billy Auger. My brother Seymour is still with me."
Fighting in the major battles for the following two and a half years, including the Battle of the Somme, after the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, during one of the many ‘Outpost Village’ operations, perhaps on the advance to Bapaume, on 4 March 1917 Temporary Company Sergeant Major Edward ‘Toiler’ Harrison, unexpectedly coming upon an enemy machine gun post, sustained serious cranial and facial gunshot wounds requiring his medical evacuation from the battlefield. Admitted to No 7 Canadian General Hospital, Etaples, France the 33 years of age died of his wounds at 11.30 p.m. on 13 March 1917.
Étaples, Pas-de-Calais, situated on the Canche River in northern France was the scene of much Allied activity during World War I due to its safety from attack by enemy land forces and the existence of railway connections with both the northern and southern battlefields. The town was home to 16 hospitals and a convalescent depot, in addition to a number of reinforcement camps for Commonwealth soldiers and general barracks for the French Army. The abundance of military infrastructure in Étaples gave the town a capacity of around 100,000 troops in World War I and made the area a serious target for German aerial bombing raids, from which the town suffered heavily.
Six hectare Étaples Military Cemetery is the largest CWGC cemetery in France, containing the remains of soldiers from the United Kingdom [8,818], Canada [1,145], Australia [464], New Zealand [260], South Africa [68], India [17] and Germany [658].
Of more than 11,500 soldiers interred in Étaples Military Cemetery, over 10,000 of these men were casualties of World War I who died in Étaples or the surrounding area.
Six hectare Étaples Military Cemetery is the largest CWGC cemetery in France, containing the remains of soldiers from the United Kingdom [8,818], Canada [1,145], Australia [464], New Zealand [260], South Africa [68], India [17] and Germany [658].
Edward ‘Toiler’ Harrison
Died on the 13th, at the 7th Canadian Clearing Hospital, of wounds received in France, Sergeant Edward Harrison, dearly loved husband of Agnes, and loved father of Teddy, late of Victorian Police Force.
In a lonely grave he lies sleeping
One of earth's noblest and best;
In my heart I shall miss him for ever,
Tho' I know he is only at rest
On the 13th March, at the 7th Canadian Clearing Hospital, died of wounds received in France, Sergeant Edward [Toiler], dearly loved son of John and Harriet Harrison, of 411 Station Street, North Carlton, late of Porepunkah, and beloved brother of William, Myra, Elsie, Teenie, Lottie, Pansy, and Seymour, also on active service, aged 32 years.
They miss you most who loved you best.
On Saturday 14 April 1917 the "Myrtleford Mail" reported –
"Throughout the district there was probably no better known native of our little town than Edward T. Harrison, better remembered as 'The Toiler,' of whom the news was received on Friday last that he had paid the great price and had laid his life down for King and country in far away France. The late Private Harrison was at the hour of his enlistment a member of the police force, in which he had served for some years, being stationed in various parts of Melbourne.
“As an athlete, he was one of the best, if not the best, all round man in the North-Eastern district. As a cyclist there was no one in the district who could compare with him; he was one of the leading footballers, an axeman who won several contests, a runner who many times was first past the tape; whilst at throwing the hammer, weight-putting, and tossing the caber he had many wins to his credit. In fact, on two or three occasions at local and district sports he took almost every event on the programme. He was also a fair cricketer, as well as a useful member of the local rifle club.
"The Toiler" was physically, what might be termed a model man, being big in every way, and when seen in khaki was an ideal type of soldier.
“As a boy he attended the local school, and upon the news becoming known the school flag, as well as the Progress Association's flag, was hoisted at the half-mast as a token of respect to one whose death brought home to every local resident a realisation of the dreadful toll this devastating war is levying upon the best and bravest of our boys. The dead hero has, besides his parents, brothers and sisters, left behind him a young widow and child to mourn his untimely end.”
Moving on 7 May 1917 from 261 Flemington Road, North Melbourne to reside with William John Harrison [father] at 10 Elgin Street, Carlton, Agnes Harrison then removed to ‘Wyandra’, Bamford Street, Sandringham on 05 March 1921.
Signing for, on 24 August 1922, the British War Medal, together with the Victory Medal awarded to Sergeant Edward Harrison, Agnes resided at Canterbury Road, Ringwood, before removing on 4 December 1923 from Ringwood to 16 Francis Street, Sandringham.

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Biography contributed by Robert Wight

Sgt 4024 Edward "Toiler" Harrison, a Police Constable prior to enlisting, also played 7 games (1906-09) for South Melbourne FC in the VFL.

He was wounded (serious GSW to head and face) on 4 March 1917 in the front line near Fricourt (while on patrol).

He was evacuated to the 7th Canadian General Hospital at Etaples, where he later died of his wounds on 13 March 1917.