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Bertie Ward Harrison

Bertie Harrison was born in Norton, probably towards the end of 1888.  He was born Bertie Ward but seems to have been the illegitimate son of James Harrison, a postman in Malton, possibly by Fanny Ward, the daughter of Matthew Ward of Slingsby.  It is possible that he was the Bertie Robinson Ward born in late 1888 in the Malton area but his early years are all extremely uncertain.  In 1891 his father was living with his wife and three children at Green Man Yard in Malton but clearly Bertie is not there at that time and he does not seem to be on the census at all.

1891 Census – resident at 2, Green Man Yard, Market Street, St Michaels, New Malton
HARRISON, James, Head, Married, M, 32, Postman, Malton, Yorkshire,
HARRISON, Mary Jane, Wife, Married, F, 39, , Malton, Yorkshire,
HARRISON, Sarah Elizabeth, Daughter, , F, 11, Scholar, Norton Malton, Yorkshire,
HARRISON, Arthur Mercer, Son, , M, 10, Scholar, Norton Malton, Yorkshire,
HARRISON, Raymond, Son, , M, 6, Scholar, Norton Malton, Yorkshire,

However by 1901 while Bertie is not acknowledged as a son he has moved into the Harrison household (now in Norton) as a boarder.

1901 Census: resident at 69, Wood Street, Norton

HARRISON, James, Head, Married, M, 42, Postman, Malton, Yorkshire,

HARRISON, Mary J, Wife, Married, F, 48, , Whitby, Yorkshire,

HARRISON, Arthur M, Son, Single, M, 20, Solicitors Clerk, Norton Malton, Yorkshire,

HARRISON, Raymond, Son, Single, M, 16, Assistant Postman, Norton Malton, Yorkshire,

WARD, Bertie, Boarder, Single, M, 12, , Norton Malton, Yorkshire,

We next find Bertie in 1909 aged 20.  He has moved across the Pennines to Manchester and is working as a barman. Apparently he had already moved in with Maggie Bird, but on March 14th, using the name of Bertie Ward Harrison and claiming James as his father, he married her at St Andrew’s Church, South Levenshulme.

Two years later in 1911 they were still living in Levenshulme and had two children, Alice aged a year and George Arthur aged three months.

1911 Census –resident at 3 Tonbridge Road Levenshulme Manchester Lancashire

WOOD, John Allison, Head, Married, M, 37, Plumbers Labourer, Scarborough Yorkshire,

WOOD, Elizabeth Ellen Allison, Wife, Married 16 years, F, 36, Laundress, Scarborough Yorkshire,

WOOD, Edith Allison, Daughter, , F, 14, , Scarborough Yorkshire,

HARRISON, Bertie Ward, Boarder, Married, M, 22, Hotrl Waiter, Malton Yorkshire,

HARRISON, Maria Margaret Ward, Boarder, Married2 years, F, 28, , London,

HARRISON, Alice Ward, Boarder, , F, 1, , Lancs Levenshulme ,Manchester,

HARRISON, George Arthur Ward, Boarder, , M, 0 (3 MONTHS), , Lancs Levenshulme, Manchester,

Bertie enlisted in the 7th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (otherwise known as the “Preston Pals”) which formed part of the 19th (Western) Division, established by the Western Command in September 1914, as part of the Army Orders authorising Kitchener's Second New Army, K2.

Early days were somewhat chaotic, the new volunteers having very few trained officers and NCOs to command them, no organised billets or equipment. The units of the Division initially concentrated in the Bulford area and in March 1915 all units concentrated near Tidworth.The Division was inspected by King George V on 23 June 1915. Advanced parties left for France on 11 July and the main body arrived in France on 17th July that year. Units initially moved to the point of assembly near St Omer.

In September that year, Bertie would, presumably ,have seen his first major battle at the action of Pietre, a supporting/diversionary action during the Battle of Loos.

The next major action that happened for the Battalion was not till the following summer when on 1st July 1916, the battalion took part in the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  It is likely that this was when Bertie sustained the wounds of which he died on the 5th July, presumably in one of the Casualty Clearing Stations at Heilly. He is buried in Heilly Station Cemetery at Mericourt-l’Abbe in a shared grave. The 36th Casualty Clearing Station was at Heilly from April 1916. It was joined in May by the 38th, and in July by the 2/2nd London, but these hospitals had all moved on by early June 1917. The cemetery was begun in May 1916 and was used by the three medical units until April 1917.

The news of Bertie’s death was announced in the Malton Mercury of October 7th 1916. It was headed “B. Harrison, Old Malton” and reported that “ Mr J. Harrison, Postman, 12 Highfield Road, Old Malton has received official news to the effect that his son, Bertie, has died of wounds. He was in the Lancashire Regiment”

Bertie is not recorded on either of the War Memorials  of Old Malton, but the Messenger makes it clear that he was regarded as a native of Old Malton, a fact that has now been recognised by the dedication on Armistice Day 2014 of a new plaque in Old Malton church.