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From Bank to Battlefield

Roy Harrison

Photo of Lance Corporal Vivian Cyril Brooke
 

Born in Yass in 1889 and educated at the Goulburn district school, Roy Harrison was employed at the Commonwealth Bank’s Head Office in Sydney. Although he had been at the Bank for only six months when he enlisted, he was described on his Bank staff card as a ‘first-class man, particularly reliable and competent in his role as an examiner with the Savings Bank Department’. He dropped rank to Second Lieutenant to join the 2nd Australian Infantry Battalion, having risen to the rank of Lieutenant in his previous military service with the Scottish Rifle and Woollahra Infantry Regiments from 1908 to 1914.

On 25 April 1915 he landed at Gallipoli and was the only original officer from the 2nd Battalion to stay for the whole of the campaign. Following the evacuation, he was promoted to Major. Roy wrote regularly to his fiancée, Emily Ellis, during the war and his last letter to her a few days before he, along with 5,532 other Australian soldiers were either killed, wounded or captured in a single night at Fromelles in France, was particularly poignant: ‘By the time this reaches you, the result will be known to you through the paper so failing any bad news, you may take it that all is well.’ Although previous correspondence to Emily from the heat of battle at Gallipoli did not have such a stoic tone, he appears to have an almost ethereal knowledge of what his fate in France would be, writing:

It is no use worrying as I am quite satisfied that what is to be, will be, and nothing can alter it for good or evil … The men don’t know yet what is before them, but some suspect that there is something in the wind. It is a most pitiful thing to see them all, going about, happy and ignorant of the fact, that a matter of hours will see many of them dead; but as the French say “Cest la guerre”.

Four days later, Roy was reported as missing. He was eventually listed as being killed in action, although his body was never found during the war. In 1921 the remains of an officer were discovered in a field in France and exhumed by the Imperial War Graves Commission. Within the pocket of the officer’s uniform was a small silver cigarette case bearing the inscription, To Lieut. Harrison from Jeff & Sum 16/9/1914.

Harrison's name is projected on the Australian War Memorial at night.

Source: Australian War Memorial.
R Harrison's name projected on the Australian War Memorial building. See tab below for projection timetable.

WWI Service Summary 17 August 1914, enlisted in 2nd Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces
18 October 1914, embarked HMAT Suffolk A23, Sydney
20 July 1916, killed in action in Fromelles from shell fire
Buried at Rue-Petillon Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix, France
Rank Major
Service Number Z349
Age at enlistment 25 years
Role at Bank Officer

Photography of RUE-PETILLON MILITARY CEMETERY, FLEURBAIX, in Pas de Calais, France

Cemetery: Rue-Petillon Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix, France
Grave Reference: I.D. 20.

Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Roy Harrison's name is located at panel 159 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial (as indicated by the poppy on the plan).

Graphical representation of the poppy location at the Australian War Memorial

Source: Australian War Memorial

Source: National Archives of Australia

To obtain a Certificate with the Casualty Details go to Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Australian War Memorial Name Projection Timetable
Date and time Name
Mon 11 May, 2015 at 12:23 am Charles Ashbourne Treadgold
Tue 12 May, 2015 at 12:25 am Roy Harrison
Wed 13 May, 2015 at 7:45 pm Vivian Cyril Brooke
Mon 22 June, 2015 at 5:17 am Charles Ashbourne Treadgold
Tue 23 June, 2015 at 4:53 am Roy Harrison
Wed 24 June, 2015 at 10:51 pm Vivian Cyril Brooke
Tue 4 August, 2015 at 1:02 am Charles Ashbourne Treadgold
Wed 5 August, 2015 at 1:10 am Roy Harrison
Thu 6 August, 2015 at 9:25 pm Vivian Cyril Brooke
Mon 21 September, 2015 at 9:18 pm Charles Ashbourne Treadgold
Tue 22 September, 2015 at 11:35 pm Roy Harrison
Thu 24 September, 2015 at 10:55 pm Vivian Cyril Brooke
Sat 16 January, 2016 at 11:41 pm Charles Ashbourne Treadgold
Mon 18 January, 2016 at 3:49 am Roy Harrison
Wed 20 January, 2016 at 10:54 pm Vivian Cyril Brooke

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