Harrison, Thomas James (Thomas)
No. 17838, ‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Saturday 1 July 1916 (aged 27)
No known grave
Thiepval Memorial, France (Pier and Face 15 A and 15 B)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Loyal Orange Lodge No. 1908, Newtownards
Thomas James Harrison was born on 22 November 1883 at Milecross, Newtownards and he was a son of Samuel and Grace Harrison (nee Armour) who were married on 23 September 1869 in First Newtownards Presbyterian Church.
The Harrison family lived in the Masonic Hall, Regent Street, Newtownards.
Sam Harrison worked as a land steward for the Rev Joseph Bradshaw JP, Milecross, then as a foreman in William Gill’s quarries and then as a foreman for Newtownards Urban Council.
Sam and Grace Harrison (nee Armour) had at least ten children:
Elizabeth (born 12 March 1870 at Milecross, Newtownards)
Grace (born 24 February 1873 at Milecross, Newtownards)
Jane (born 27 May 1875 at Milecross, Newtownards)
Hugh (born 14 March 1877 at Milecross, Newtownards; died 4 November 1877)
Samuel (born 9 November 1878 at Milecross, Newtownards)
William John (born 14 July 1881 at Milecross, Newtownards)
Joseph Bradshaw (born 12 September 1882 at Milecross, Newtownards)
Thomas James (born 22 November 1883 at Milecross, Newtownards)
Hugh (born 28 June 1886 at Milecross, Newtownards; died 16 January 1894 aged 7)
Martha (born 8 March 1889 at Milecross, Newtownards; died 13 January 1899 aged 9)
Immediately prior to the outbreak of the Great War Thomas Harrison worked in the Urban Council Gas Works. Before that he had worked in William Gill’s quarries. Thomas Harrison was a member of the Newtownards contingent of the Ulster Volunteer Force and a member of Mill Street Heroes Loyal Orange Lodge No. 1908, Newtownards.
Thomas James Harrison enlisted shortly after war commenced and, after completing his training, he proceeded to France in October 1915 with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division. In May 1916 Rifleman Thomas Harrrison was the first County Down Volunteer to be awarded a Military Medal for ‘bravery in the field in carrying wounded comrades to safety’. At that time two of his brothers were also serving with the Royal Irish Rifles, William John in the 13th Battalion and Samuel in the 18th Battalion. Two of Thomas Harrison’s nephews, James and Samuel Gordon, were also serving in the Army.
Rifleman Thomas Harrison did not live long enough to receive his Military Medal in person. After the first day of the Battle of the Somme he was posted as missing in action and a year later it was officially confirmed that he must be presumed to have been killed in action.
On Friday 3 August 1917 Sam and Grace Harrison received the Military Medal on their son’s behalf. Just over a month later, on Sunday 16 September 1917, Sam Harrison died of heart disease (aged 71). He had carried out his duties with the Urban Council up until a few days before his death.
Rifleman Thomas Harrison has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France; on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in Loyal Orange Lodge No. 1908, Newtownards.