Alfred Abram Harrison was born in Northend/Burton Dassett, near Leamington Spa, in about 1871. He was the son of Thomas and Hannah Harrison of Northend, Leamington.
By 1891, when he was 20, he had moved to Crewe where he was in lodgings with the Moseley family at 56 Gresty Road, and working as a ‘railway porter’. It was there that he met his future wife, Elizabeth Ann Moseley, who was then the eldest daughter of the family, aged 18.
Alfred Harrison’s Service Records exist, indeed two sets of Records exist, as he had two separate periods of military service.
There was a formal request for him to be enlisted in the ‘RE Railway Reserve’ on 22 February 1894 and he joined up on 17 August 1894, at Chester, as a Sapper No.28186, when he was 23 years and 6 months old. He was then a railway ‘fireman’, a Wesleyan, and joined the ‘2nd CRVRE’. He transferred to the Reserve the next day. He was apparently on ‘Home Service’ from 17 August 1894 to 13 March 1901. However, it also seems that he was recalled to Army Service under Special Army Order of 20 December 1899 and then re-enlisted on 26 December 1899. The service dates may have been entered incorrectly as it suggests that he served in South Africa only from 14 March 1901 until 23 August 1901. However, it seems that he took part in the South Africa 1899 campaign, and was awarded the Queen’s South Africa 1899 – 1902 medal and clasps for Cape Colony, Orange Free State, and South Africa 1901. He was discharged at Chatham on 21 September 1901. His next of kin was then his mother, Hannah.
In about early 1902, very soon after his return from South Africa, he married Elizabeth Ann Moseley in the Nantwich registration area. She had been born in about 1873 in Crewe, Cheshire and perhaps they had been engaged since he met when lodging at her mother’s home in the early 1890s. They moved to Rugby and lived at 45 Claremont Road, Rugby, where in 1911 he was enumerated with his wife, and was working as an ‘Agent Oil Trade’, indeed, he was the local agent for the Anglo-American Oil Company. They had been married nine years but had had no children.
Having been in the army, Alfred signed up again on the outbreak of WWI and his ‘Army Reserve, Special Reservists, One Year’s Service’ (or the duration!) attestation papers in Rugby on 14 September 1914, showed that he had lived ‘out of his father’s house for three years continuously’, and had served in the ‘RE (Railway Reserve) time exp.’. He re-enlisted as a Sapper, No.51892 in the 87th Field Company, Royal Engineers. He was 5foot 8½ inches tall; weighed 156lbs, with grey eyes, brown hair, and now declared that he was Church of England.
87th Field Company, The Royal Engineers joined 12th (Eastern) Division in January 1915 as the Engineers were in training at Hounslow and final training was undertaken near Aldershot from 20 February 1915. They proceeded to France between 29 May and 1 June 1915, landing at Boulogne, they concentrated near St Omer and by 6 June were in the Meteren-Steenwerck area with Divisional HQ being established at Nieppe. They underwent instruction from the more experienced 48th (South Midland) Division and took over a section of the front line at Ploegsteert Wood on 23 June 1915.
Alfred Abraham Harrison’s Medal Card states that he went to France on 30 August 1915, so would have probably been serving as an engineer during the Battle of Loos.
They were in action in The Battle of Loos from 30 September, taking over the sector from Gun Trench to Hulluch Quarries consolidating the position, under heavy artillery fire. On the 8th they repelled a heavy German infantry attack and on the 13th took part in the Action of the Hohenzollern Redoubt, capturing Gun Trench and the south western face of the Hulluch Quarries. During this period at Loos, 117 officers and 3237 men of the Division were killed or wounded. By the 21st they moved to Fouquieres-les-Bethune for a short rest then returned to the front line at the Hohenzollern Redoubt until 15 November, when they went into reserve at Lillers. On 9 December, 9th Royal Fusiliers assisted in a round-up of spies and other suspicious characters in the streets of Bethune. On the 10th the Division took over the front line north of La Bassee canal at Givenchy. On 19 January they began a period of training in Open Warfare at Busnes, then moved back into the front line at Loos on 12 February 1916.
Alfred’s records show that he was admitted to hospital on 29 April 1916 and discharged on 2 May 1916; he was then readmitted to 25 General Hospital on 9 May 1916 and discharged on 20 June 1916, although there was no indication on his record as whether he had been wounded or had been ill. However, his obituary noted that, ‘… he had been at the front for twelve months. Some time ago he was slightly wounded, and on leaving hospital was transferred to another company, in which he had served only 15 days when he met his death’.
In June they moved to Flesselles and carried out a training exercise. They moved to Baizieux on the 30th June and went into the reserve at Hencourt and Millencourt by mid morning on the 1st of July. They relieved the 8th Division at Ovillers-la-Boisselle that night and attacked at 3.15 the following morning with mixed success. On the 7th they attacked again and despite suffering heavy casualties in the area of Mash Valley, they succeeded in capturing and holding the first and second lines close to Ovillers. They were withdrawn to Contay on the 9th July
His record confirms that on 14 July 1916, he joined ‘another company’, ?‘103 Co?’, which was it seems in the same area, Ovillers – la Boiselle. He was probably retained in the area because of his local knowledge. However, just two weeks later on 29 July 1916, he was ‘Killed in Action’, and his record stated that he was
Buried close behind British Front Line North of Ovillers – la Boiselle, Sheet 57D – X2G 2663.
It seems that his body was then lost as he is listed by the CWGC, as one of those killed or missing, on 29 July 1916 and whose body was not found or identified. He is remembered on Pier and Face 8A and 8D of the Thiepval Memorial.
The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932.
Alfred Abraham Harrison was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He was also awarded the 1915 Star. Alfred is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates.
His widow and sole legatee, Elizabeth A, received £11-10-1d on 2 October 1916, and £8-10-0d on 13 September 1919. Administration (with will), was granted at London to his widow on 14 November 1917 in the sum of £173-2-8d.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on Alfred Abraham Harrison was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, July 2016.
 Rugby Advertiser, 26 August 1916