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George Edward Harrison

Date of birth: 1891
Area: Brotherton
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Son of George and Isabella
Service number: 1440/87894

War Service

George Edward was a professional soldier insofar as he joined the Territorial Force on 25th May 1910 and was enrolled in the 5th Battalion of the KOYLI (No 1440).
With the creation of theTerritorial Force in 1908, the 1st Volunteer Battalion was reorganised as the 4th and 5th Battalions (TF), while the 3rd Battalion was transferred to the Special Reserve.
During WW1 the 5th Battalion sailed to France at the same time as the 4th Battalion, both serving together in 49 Division. They arrived in France on 12th April 1915 and within three weeks was in the thick of the fighting at Hooge. Hooge is also famed for being the site of the first German flame thrower attack against the British. Using 'Flammenwerfer' equipment - a cylinder strapped to the back of one man, attached to which was a lit nozzle, producing a jet of flame reaching up to 25 yards in length, thick black smoke billowing - the Germans launched a surprise attack at 0315 on 30 July 1915.
George Edward was awarded the 1915 Star and, as indicated on his medal index card (mic) this was for service with the MGC. There is some discrepancy, however, as the date of entry into the ‘theatre of war’ is given as 13.4.1915 whereas the MGC, as noted above, was apparently not in existence until later that year. One possible explanation for this might be that George Edward was posted to the school in France. However, the date given on the mic and the date the 5th Battalion arrived in France are virtually the same given that it would take a day to reach the area of conflict after disembarkation.
On joining the MGC a new number – 87894 - was assigned to George Edward. In 1914, all infantry battalions were equipped with a machine gun section of two guns, which was increased to four in February 1915. The sections were equipped with Maxim guns, served by a subaltern and 12 men. The obsolescent Maxim had a maximum rate of fire of 500 rounds, so was the equivalent of around 40 well-trained riflemen.
The experience of fighting in the early clashes and in the First Battle of Ypres had proved that the machine guns required special tactics and organisation. On 22 November 1914 the BEF established a Machine Gun School in November 1914 at Wisques in France, under Major C. Baker-Carr, to train new regimental officers and machine gunners, both to replace those lost in the fighting to date and to increase the number of men with MG skills. A Machine Gun Training Centre was also established at Grantham in England.
The Machine Gun Corps is created
On 2 September 1915 a definite proposal was made to the War Office for the formation of a single specialist Machine Gun Company per infantry brigade, by withdrawing the guns and gun teams from the battalions. They would be replaced at battalion level by the light Lewis machine guns and thus the firepower of each brigade would be substantially increased. The Machine Gun Corps was created by Royal Warrant on October 14 followed by an Army Order on 22 October 1915. The companies formed in each brigade would transfer to the new Corps. The MGC would eventually consist of infantry Machine Gun Companies, cavalry Machine Gun Squadrons and Motor Machine Gun Batteries. The pace of reorganisation depended largely on the rate of supply of the Lewis guns but it was completed before the Battle of the Somme in 1916. A Base Depot for the Corps was established at Camiers.
The MGC is re-equipped
Shortly after the formation of the MGC, the Maxim guns were replaced by the Vickers, which became a standard gun for the next five decades. The Vickers machine gun is fired from a tripod and is cooled by water held in a jacket around the barrel. The gun weighed 28.5 pounds, the water another 10 and the tripod weighed 20 pounds. Bullets were assembled into a canvas belt, which held 250 rounds and would last 30 seconds at the maximum rate of fire of 500 rounds per minute. Two men were required to carry the equipment and two the ammunition. A Vickers machine gun team also had two spare men.
A total of 170,500 officers and men served in the MGC, of which 62,049 were killed, wounded or missing.

Family Life

Harrison’s were resident in Brotherton throughout the 1800’s. The earliest confirmed ancestor of George Edward was his great grandfather George (1st) who along with his wife Sarah (Booth) was born in the late 1700’s.
George (1st) died in 1839, followed by Sarah in 1840. Their family were still to be found living in the High Street at the time of the 1841 census. They included Thomas (aged 28), George (2nd) (25), Mary Ann (20), Sarah (17), John (14), Rebecca (12) and Emila (7). The three older males were all labourers.
In 1848 George (2nd) had married Mary Simpson of Brotherton (b. 1824) but had no family. This had changed by 1861 as they then had four children - Sarah (aged 9), Jane 97), Alice (3) and George (3rd) aged 1. Mary Ann was to be born in 1863. George (2nd) was described as being an ‘Ag Lab.’
In 1871 George (2nd) was still a ‘farmhand’ and several of the children had moved out of the home leaving13 year old Alice, George (3rd) (10) and Mary Ann (8). By 1881 Mary had died leaving George (2nd) with George (3rd) aged 20 and Mary Ann aged 18. Both men were described as ‘Labourers’.
By 1891 George (3rd) had married Isabella who was probably born in Morley and had a daughter called Sarah (Elizabeth) aged 1. George was a ‘coal miner’ by then and the family lived at ‘The Gardens’. George Edward was born later in 1891 followed by Joseph in 1894.
By 1901 the family were back in the High Street and George (3rd) was a ‘Way Cleaner, Underground’
Before joining the Army George Edward also became a ‘Miner’ at Acton Hall Colliery.
As of yet there are no details of what happened to George Edward after he was discharged. The only information available is an address on the Medal Index Card which is Bailey Street, Staffs dated 19/10/1920.

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