William Fryer Harvey AM

b. 14/04/1885 Leeds, Yorkshire. d. 04/06/1937 Letchworth, Hertfordshire.

DATE OF AM ACTION: 28/06/1918 Scapa Flow, Scotland.

William F Harvey AM

Born into a wealthy Quaker family in Leeds, West Yorkshire, he attended the Quaker schools at Bootham in Yorkshire and at Leighton Park in Reading before going on to Balliol College, Oxford. He took a degree in medicine at Leeds. Ill health dogged him, however, and he devoted himself to personal projects such as his first book of short stories, Midnight House (1910).

In World War I he initially joined the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, but later served as a surgeon-lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and received the Albert Medal for Lifesaving. Lung damage received during the rescue leading to the award troubled him for the rest of his life, but he continued to write both short stories and his cheerful and good-natured memoir We Were Seven. Harvey was a practising Quaker.

Before the war he had shown interest in adult education, on the staff of the Working Men’s College, Fircroft, Selly Oak, Birmingham. He returned to Fircroft in 1920, becoming Warden, but by 1925 ill-health forced his retirement. In 1928 he published a second collection of short stories, The Beast with Five Fingers, and in 1933 he published a third, Moods and Tenses. He lived in Switzerland with his wife for much of this time, but nostalgia for his home country caused his return to England. He moved to Letchworth in 1935 and died there in 1937 at the age of 52. After a funeral service at the local Friends Meeting House Harvey was buried in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin in Old Letchworth.



On the 28th June, 1918, two of H.M. torpedo-boat destroyers were in collision, and Surg.-Lieut. Harvey was sent on board the more seriously damaged destroyer in order to render assistance to the injured. On hearing that a stoker petty officer was pinned by the arm in a damaged compartment, Surg.-Lieut. Harvey immediately went down and amputated the arm, this being the only means of freeing the petty officer. The boiler-room at the time was flooded, and full of fumes from the escaping oil. This alone constituted a great danger to anyone in the compartment, and Surg.-Lieut. Harvey collapsed from this cause after performing the operation, and had to be hauled out of the compartment. Moreover, at any time the ship might have broken in two and all hands were fallen in on deck, wearing lifebelts, at the time, in order to be ready for this eventuality. Surg.-Lieut. Harvey displayed the greatest gallantry and disregard of his personal safety in descending into the damaged compartment and continuing to work there amidst the oil fumes at a time when the ship was liable to sink.