Object of the Week

WW1 Bronze Memorial Plaque to Pte W Harrison

Thanks to the TWV Roe Trust we were recently able to purchase at auction the WW1 bronze memorial plaque awarded to Wilfred Harrison of Cleveland Terrace, Whitby. The plaque was accompanied by associated paperwork and the newspaper cutting about his funeral which gives an interesting insight into his short life.

Private Harrison served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, he was the second son of Captain John Harrison. He was just 28 years of age when he died in the University War Hospital, Southampton in June 1917.

The Whitby Gazette account reads as follows:

“After serving in various home hospitals and hospitals attached to internment camps, he was stationed at Southampton where he fell ill and contracted pneumonia and septic poisoning. Prior to joining the Medical Corps he had received training in ambulance work as part of the Whitby Division of the St John Ambulance Brigade, from which he volunteered for service with the Royal Army Medical Corps. His quiet, unassuming disposition and ever-readiness to take a full share of whatever work a detachment of the Division was called upon to undertake made him a general favourite and highly respected amongst his co-workers; and his invaluable assistance and devotion to duty during the wreck of the hospital ship Rohilla  was in-keeping with the thoroughness with which he performed any duties which fell to his lot. Although fond of all outdoor sports and pastimes, he excelled in rowing and swimming. Whilst not endowed with more than average strength he used what power he possessed with telling effect, and was always a welcome member of any ‘four’ which went from the Whitby Friendship Rowing Club’s boathouse, the flag of which floated at half mast on the day of the funeral. His forte was fine ‘skiff’ rowing, and his splendid handling of the skulls and his graceful and symmetrical movements were the admiration of his fellow members, and the ‘old-hands’ along the harbourside. He served on the Club Committee for several years and also held the office of vice-captain. Private Harrison was a plumber by occupation and served his apprenticeship with Messrs E.Smithson & Son, in whose employ he was at the time of his enlistment….”

The Gazette article goes on to mention the active service of two of Private Harrison’s brothers and also to give detail of the service and mourners.

Memorial bronze plaques were issued after the end of WW1 to the next of kin of all British Empire service personnel who lost their lives as a result of the war.

It is fitting that the plaque and it’s poignant story should stay in Whitby; Private Harrison’s hometown

2 Comments

  1. As volunteers for the Commonweath War Graves Commission, Eyes On Hands On Project, we have been keeping an eye on the graves in the Whitby (Larpool) Cemetery. One of the graves under our charge is the Harrison private memorial which includes Wilfred Harrison. Very interesting to see some more details about this casualty from WW1 and to find that he was involved with the rescue of crewmen from the hospital ship Rohilla. So good to see a photo of Wilfred as this is one part of the research which is very often missing.
    Once the museum is able to open again we will come in to see this object and the associated information.
    Regards
    Nick & Alison Durham.

    Like

    1. Dear Nick and Alison
      We would be happy for you to come into the museum once things have returned to normal. Please could you enquire again towards late June when restrictions should have ended. Please email manager@whitbymuseum.org.uk.
      Kind regards
      Hazel Wright
      Museum Manager

      Like

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