Christopher Jack ‘Chris’ Harris was born into a military family - his father served for 32 years in the Volunteers (the predecessor to the Territorial Army). He joined up under age and served for eight months in France in 1915 before being discovered and discharged. At 18 he rejoined the army and returned. He died from wounds in April 1918. A brother was also killed during the war. Their home was in Manor Road.
HARRIS, CHRISTOPHER JACK, Private, 7th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment
(formerly of the Bedfordshire Regiment and Army Service Corps)
Chris enlisted in Witham. He saw service as T4/065284 in the Army Service Corps and as 51926 in the Bedfordshire Regiment. He landed in France, under-age, on 5th May 1915 and eight months’ later was discharged as being too young to fight,
Chris’s brother was killed in action on 17th July 1917.
Chris rejoined the army when he turned 18 and died from wounds on 16th April 1918 at the 51st Field Ambulance from shell wounds while serving as Private 52200 in the 7th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment. He was aged 18.
He was buried at the Hedauville Communal Cemetery Extension, near Albert in the Somme region of France (grave B12).
The cemetery extension was begun at the end of March 1918, when the front line was consolidated a short distance east of the village following the German’s 1918 Spring offensive. It was used by field ambulances and fighting units until August 1918. The extension contained 95 graves at the Armistice, but was later increased when graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefields of March-August 1918. There are now 178 First World War burials in the extension and two from the Second World War.
On 17th May 1918 the Essex County Chronicle included the following family announcement:
“Harris. - On April 16th, at the 51st Field Ambulance, France, of shell wounds, Pt. Chas. Harris, Lincolnshire Regt., second son of Mr. and Mrs. George Harris, of 39 Manor Road, Chelmsford, aged 18 years and 8 months.
Chris was the son of George Fenn Harris and Ellen Harris (nee Clark) and was born in Chelmsford in 1899. He was baptised at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 27th August 1899. At that time his father was a machinist of 14 Lady Lane, Chelmsford.
Chris’s father had been born in 1872 in Black Notley; his mother c1872 in Chatham Green. They had married on 14th September 1895 at St. John’s Church, Moulsham. At that time Chris’s father was aged 23, a machinist of Prospect Terrace, Chelmsford, and the son of James Harris, a gardener. His mother was aged 24, also of Prospect Terrace, Chelmsford, and the daughter of Alfred Clark, farm bailiff.
Chris’s five Chelmsford-born siblings were George Alfred James Harris, (1896-1917), Leslie Frank Harris (1903-1912), Cecil Herbert Harris (1905-1966), Tassie Harris (1907-1995) and Percy William Harris
The 1901 census found Chris, aged one, resident at 14 Lady Lane, Chelmsford (today’s number 29) with his parents and elder brother George. Chris’s father was an engineer’s machinist.
A decade later 11 year-old Chris, his parents, four surviving siblings and an aunt were recorded by the 1911 census still living at the same address. Chris’s father was a carpenter and machinist, while brother George was a butcher’s assistant. A year later Chris Harris’ brother Leslie died, aged 12.
In 1914 the family left Lady Lane and the 1914-15 register of electors listed his father at 39 Manor Road, Chelmsford.
The same edition also included the following report:
“Mr. and Mrs. G. Harris, of 39 Manor Road, Chelmsford, have been notified that their second son, Pt. Chris. Harris, late trumpeter A.S.C., has died of wounds in France. He served in France for eight months in 1915 at the age of 16, and was discharged, being under age. He joined again when 18. Mr. and Mrs. Harris have since received intimation that their eldest son, Cpl. G. Harris, Essex Regt., missing since July 17, 1917. was killed on that date.”
Chris is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford which shows his regiment as ‘Royal Army Service Corps’, and the Moulsham Parish Memorial, St John’s Church, Moulsham. He was entitled to the Victory, British War and 1915 Star medals.
The 1918 register of electors listed Chris’s parents still at 39 Manor Road.
On 14th April 1922 the Essex Chronicle included the following in memoriam notice:
“Harris, - In tenderest memory of our dear boy, Pt. Chris. Harris, 7th Lincoln Regt., who died of wounds in France, 16th April, 1918, aged 18 years and 8 months. Never forgotten by his mother, father, sister and brother. - 39 Manor Road, Chelmsford.”
Chris’s father died on 24th September 1934, aged 61. His mother died a few weeks later, on 11th November 1934.