b. 30/01/1892 Halling, Kent. d. 09/08/1918 Morlancourt, France.
Thomas James Harris (1892-1918) was the son of William John and Sarah Ann Harris of Halling, Kent, the seventh child of a family of nine children. He attended Halling Board School (Infants) from 7th July 1896. It is assumed he worked at Hilton & Anderson’s Manor Cement Works after leaving school, enlisting on the 27th August 1914 aged 22, joining The Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment, and travelling to France 1st June 1915. He was made a Lance Corporal on 9th July 1915, being promoted to Corporal 1st June 1916 and then acting Sergeant on 28th March 1918. He was awarded his Military Medal on the 9th April 1918, possibly for actions in the period 25th – 28th March 1918 near Authuille, Somme. He was confirmed in the rank of Sergeant on 24th June 1918 and was posthumously awarded his V.C. for his actions during an attack on 9th August 1918.
During the period 26th February 1916 and 2nd July 1916, he was wounded on two occasions. Following the first occasion on 26th February 1916 he was admitted to hospital from 27th February to 4th March and returned to duty on 12th March 1916 (no further details are available). On 2nd July 1916 he received a shrapnel wound to his right side which entailed his return to England on a hospital ship and his admission to hospital between 8th July and 25th August 1916, with his return to France on 23rd. May 1917.
On 9th August 1918 at Morlancourt, France, when the advance was much impeded by hostile machine guns concealed in crops and shell-holes. Sjt. Harris led his section against one of these, capturing it and killing seven of the enemy.
Later, on two successive occasions, he attacked single-handed two enemy machine guns which were causing heavy casualties and holding up the advance. He captured the first gun and killed the crew, but was himself killed when attacking the second one. It was largely due to the great courage and initiative of this gallant N.C.O. that the advance of the battalion was continued without delay and undue casualties. Throughout the operations he showed a total disregard for his own personal safety, and set a magnificent example to all ranks.
Thomas Harris was buried in Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension, The Somme, France and he was posthumously awarded the VC on 22nd October 1918. The medal itself was presented to Tom’s parents after the war by the King in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace and later it passed to their son Herbert George. Some years later the family donated both medals, the VC and MM, to the Royal West Kent Regiment, and today they are on display in their museum in Maidstone, Kent.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: QUEEN’S OWN ROYAL KENT RGT, MAIDSTONE, KENT
BURIAL PLACE: DERNANCOURT CEMETERY, FRANCE.
PLOT VIII, ROW J, GRAVE 20
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Plan.
Philip Badham – Harris Blue Plaque in Halling, Kent.
Trudy Fenton-Scott – Image of the VC Stone in Halling, Kent
Terry Hissey – Woolwich Barracks VC Board.
Mark Sanders – Harris VC Medal Card.