Private George Thomas Harris

I have just found a great forum about WW1 and gleaned some more information about my great uncle on it.

George Thomas Harris was the brother of my mothers mother Grace Harris, his only sibling. As mum and I are both only children I am his sole relative which means I have a duty to remember him.

George Thomas Harris was born 1897 in Plumstead. He died in action 9/4/1917 aged 20 in the Battle for Arras and is buried at Tilloy British Cemetery, Tilloy-Les-Mofflaines. He was a private in the Northumberland Fusiliers, 1st Bn service number 34465. He was originally in the General Service Calvary no 32139.

I have no photos and as grandma died when I was 5 no family stories either. But I do have one of the two medals he was entitled too. I don’t know what happened to the other, maybe not claimed or lost. He was killed in action(perhaps by a sniper as detailed below) and this is the diary from that day..

War Diary: 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, 3rd Division – April 1917.

(The handwriting is faint and therefore quite difficult to read but I’ve done my best)

April 8th:  Battn paraded at 11.30pm & proceeded to the assembly trenches via CRINCHON SEWER, GODLEY AVENUE, AUCKLAND CAVE, CIRCULAR TRENCH, OLD ICELAND STREET, RUE-du-TEMPLE, TWENTY STREET and IMPERIAL STREET arriving in position about 2.30AM.

April 9th:  Hot tea & rum was issued to the troops at 6.30AM. At 7.30AM the Battn left its assembly trenches and advanced in column of sections in file and came under heavy shell fire at once. On reaching the village of TILLOY they found the leading Battn ___   ____ & reinforced them. The whole pushed forward & carried the Blue line. In TILLOY village a strong point held up part of the advance but 2/Lieut Greener collected a few rifle grenadiers & rifleman and succeeded in keeping down the hostile fire until the arrival of the 8th Bde when the enemy fled offering a good target to our riflemen. The Battn helped to consolidate the Blue line. About 4.30pm relieved the 2nd Suffolk in the Harp. The attack of the 8th Bde on the BROWN line failed & they dug themselves in front of it.

Lieut-Colonel Herbert, Cmdg 1st Bn Northumberland Fusiliers – Report of Operations of 9th April 1917:

1.  The Assembly Positions.  The few casualties which occurred in the assembly trenches took place either in old trenches which were used as assembly trenches, or in the new trenches near their junction with C.T.s. this points to the advisability of digging sufficient trenches to allow room for all troops to be put in new trenches, even though they be shallow, and to leave 15 yards or so of trench near C.T.s unoccupied.

2.  Advance across over our trench system.  Here again the advisability of avoiding the junction of lateral trenches with C.T.s was most noticeable.  The companies advancing on the left had to keep their left shoulders up to avoid STRAFF COPSE which was heavily shelled, and owing to the heavy shelling in this vicinity of the CAMBRAI ROAD their line of advance was always some 200 yards to the RIGHT of which it should have been.

3.  The Attack.  The companies on the RIGHT advanced steadily until they overtook the barrage and reinforced the West Yorkshire Regiment in the village advancing with them to the final objective. THE BLUE LINE. On the left the advance was temporarily checked by strong point in the village and the Quarry which was strongly held. 2/Lieut Greener organised an attack on the Quarry with all the Rifle Grenadiers at his disposal and whilst this was in progress the 8th Brigade appeared coming through the village on which the garrison of the Quarry and the strong point fled offering a good target to our Rifle-men. The enemy made great use of Snipers who caused a great many casualties, many of them remaining in their posts until after our Infantry had passed.

4.  Consolidation.  When the objective had been taken the Battalion reorganized and consolidated a position on the BLUE LINE from Wancourt ROAD for about 300 yards to the north.

5.  General.  The principle that when one part of the line is held up it is the duty of the remainder to push on was very clearly demonstrated in this attack. The enemy’s barrage was chiefly concentrated on the vicinity of the CAMBRAI ROAD and in consequence that portion of the village nearest the road was not dealt with by Infantry following a barrage. The Infantry on the RIGHT and LEFT pushed on and then organized attacks with Rifle-Bombers, Bombers? and Lewis Guns, making this position of the GERMANS still holding out untenable.

The War Diary also contains the following – ‘Report on Operations of 3rd Divison from 9th April 1917 to 14th April 1917