Ulysses & James Harris Mortehoe Brothers

The People behind the Names – Ulysses & James Harris Mortehoe Brothers

Private James Harris and his brother, Sapper Ulysses Marfleet Harris, were from Mortehoe and both lost their lives in the First World War. William Bale Harris was born in 1873 and married Emma Marfleet Karslake twenty years later in 1893, the couple would start their family life in Mortehoe. Their first child, Ulysses Marfleet was born in 1894, the couple would go on to have a further 6 children. Head of the house, William B. Harris was a grocer, by trade and was described in Alan Bidgood’s ‘Woolacombe at War’ book as “a man of striking appearance who owned Harris’s grocer’s shop. He was always attired in a triangular white apron and with his bushy hair and a glorious while walrus moustache completing the picture. I can still envisage Mr Harris standing behind the counter wringing his hands as he exchanged pleasantries with each customer crossing the threshold” William Bale Harris was a well known member of the local community, and in later life he would be the superintendent of Mortehoe Methodist Sunday School. When he died in April 1941 the local newspaper reported his death which stated that he “was a native of the parish, and for many years he had been proprieter of a grocery store. He held many offices in connection with Mortehoe Methodist Church, and was well known in the district as a local preacher. He was also associated with various parochial activities.”

Ulysses their eldest son was born in 1894. Ulysses signed up for active service as war was declared, he would train at the Curragh Camp, Ireland. At the time of his enlistment his records describe him as being, 5ft, 6inches tall with blue eyes and brown hair. He left for active service on the 4th July 1915 and participated in the historic landing at Suvla Bay in August. He served in the Gallipoli Peninsula for four months and afterwards went to Salonika. He was in the Serbian fighting and took part in the Serbian retreat early in December. In 1916, the family received a letter from the Sergeant informing them that on the 10th May, their son, Sapper Harris was seriously injured through an accident, but he was progressing favourably and hopes of recovery were entertained. Sadly the family received further news on the 12th May informing them that Ulysses had died. The accident in which Ulysses had been involved required an investigation, on the 9th May at 17:15 three trucks were heading down a line coupled together, Sapper Harris was brakesman in the first truck and sustained his injuries when the brakes of the third truck failed, forcing them to collide at high speed.

James Harris, worked with his father in the grocery trade and before the outbreak of war he was working in Bristol. As war was announced he enlisted with the Gloucester regiment and had been in France for nearly two years before being transferred to the entrenching battalion. James had been wounded twice, firstly when taking part in the first Somme battle and then before Cambrai. On Thursday 11th April 1918, the family learnt of the tragedy of losing their second son James. In the course of a letter conveying the sad news to his parents, the section commander said “we were in a very hot corner at this time, and death came very suddently. I have reason to think he suffered no pain. I have lost a dear friend, as we had been together since the division came to France.”

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