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News > Articles > WB Harris in World War I

WB Harris in World War I

A brief history of WB 'Dick' Harris' service during the first World War.
Officers marching World War I
Officers marching World War I

W B (Dick) Harris, the School’s third Headmaster (1926-57), joined up for war service at the same time as his friend J F Roxburgh and they both went into the Royal Engineers Signals Corps. He and Roxburgh were particularly close; they had met as undergraduates at Pembroke College, Cambridge and joined the staff at Lancing together. Each got a House and, for a while they were fellow Housemasters. Roxburgh founded Stowe in 1923 and become one of the great Headmasters of the twentieth century, ranked alongside Sewell of Radley and Arnold of Rugby. Dick Harris moved to Saint Ronan’s three years later.

Dick didn’t go to France until 22nd June, 1918. If at that point, as seems probable, he joined the Signals Company of the 33rd Division of the British Expeditionary Force, he would have been out of the front line until September, when the Division joined the final advance across northern France.

In October he was involved in the advance from Malincourt (south east of Cambrai) to the River Sells, culminating in the liberation of the town of Englefontaine. Dick kept a copy of the signal sent to the 33rd Machine Division conveying the gratitude of the mayor of the town, General Pinney and the GOC of the British Vth Corps. This is displayed below.

Dick ended the war near Berlaimont on the Sambre, where in the first days of November he took part in a famous battle for the crossing of the River Sambre with the 33rd Machine Gun Corps, under Lt Col G S Hutchison, DSO MC.

The first three photographs below are of the 33rd Machine Gun Corps’s victory march on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, through the streets of Locquignol, just west of Berlaimont. Each photo shows part of a column of troops marching behind an officer against an identical background. The officers featured are G S Hutchison, J F Roxburgh and Dick Harris.

JF Roxburgh

WB Harris

The last of the set of photographs on the right shows Dick Harris with his company. Dick is seated in the centre of the group.

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