Nowadays it seems that researching your family history has never been easier thanks to the ongoing digitisation of records. The release of WO 95′s seems particularly poignant to me as it was a WO 95 that helped me finally answer a question that had been going through my mum’s family for several generations; the circumstances of the death of my great-grandmother’s favourite brother, James Henry Harris.
The normal aspects of James’s life that you can find through records are easy to trace. Born on 24 August 1884 at Rochester Row in Westminster 1 he was the fourth child and second son of William John Harris and his wife, Harriet Louisa Harris née Farley. With William John, Amelia and Alice Maud ahead of him, he was followed by my great-grandmother Kate, then George, Albert Edward, Harry and May. James is on every census from 1891 onwards, first as a scholar and then as a grocer working in his father’s business (William John was a grocer/fruiterer and appears to have been teaching the same business to all his sons). He appears as a witness on the marriage certificates for Alice Maud in 1908 2 and William in 1909 3. The last time he shows up on any family event is to witness Kate’s marriage to her first husband in October 1914 4.
At some point, probably in early 1915, James did what many young men his age did and signed up to fight in the war. According to ‘family legend’ all five of the Harris sons signed up, but it’s only because James and George died that I know anything about their service, and so far the other three have eluded me. After signing up James was placed in the 7th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry under the number 11042. Using his medal card 5 I found that he ‘first entered the war’ on the 23 July 1915, and at some point was ‘K in A’, killed in action. Continue reading »