Harper, Robert Henry
Sergeant (Air Gunner)
No. R/85966, Royal Canadian Air Force
Killed in action on Tuesday 25 August 1942 (aged 24)
Stratford-upon-Avon Cemetery, Warwickshire, England (Grave 4149)
Canadian Virtual War Memorial (Internet)
Canadian Second World War Book of Remembrance (Page 80)
Robert Henry Harper was born on 23 June 1918 in Ballywalter and he was a son of Robert Henry and Agnes Harper (formerly Beggs, nee Murphy). Robert Henry Harper Senior was a Rifleman (No. 1002) who served with the 17th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles during the First World War and was stationed at Ballykinlar when he and Agnes Beggs (both of them widowed) were married on 18 February 1916 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s). After the war Robert Henry Harper Senior worked as a labourer.
Robert Henry Harper had previously been married to Mary Orr; they were married on 21 September 1906 in Second Ballywalter Presbyterian Church. Robert Henry Harper worked as an agricultural labourer and he and Mary had a son, James, who was born on 31 August 1907 in Springvale, Ballywalter. Mary Harper died of pulmonary tuberculosis on 7 July 1910 (aged 26)
Agnes Harper (formerly Beggs, nee Murphy) from Newtownards was born on 11 May 1888 and she was a daughter of William John and Susanna Murphy (nee McClement) of Ballywalter. William John Murphy worked as a fisherman, Susanna Murphy worked at home as an embroiderer and they had at least 14 children including William John, Hugh, Charles (died), Robert, Charles, David, Agnes, James, and Andrew.
Agnes Murphy (aged 21) and James Beggs (aged 18) were married on 4 December 1908 in Ballywalter Parish Church of Ireland Church (Holy Trinity) and they had three children:
Twins Ellen and James (born 8 February 1909; James died 9 February 1909) Dorothy (born 10 July 1911)
James Beggs was 21 when he died on 18 April 1912.
Robert Henry and Agnes Harper (formerly Beggs, nee Murphy) had at least eight children, some of whom were born in Ballywalter and some in Canada:
Robert Henry (born 23 June 1918 in Ballywalter; baptised in Ballywalter Parish Church of Ireland Church)
William John (born 1 May 1920 in Waterdown, Ontario; baptised in Ballywalter Parish Church)
Annie (born 14 January 1922; baptised in Ballywalter Parish Church)
Robert Henry Harper Junior moved to Canada where he worked on a dairy farm before he enlisted. He married Winifred Evans, they lived in Port Credit, Ontario and they had one daughter whose name was Sandra Joan Harper.
During the Second World War Robert Henry Harper served with the Royal Canadian Air Force and he was based at RAF Wellesbourne Mountford in Warwickshire. He was 24 when he was killed in action with 22 Operational Training Unit on 25 August 1942 and he was buried in Stratford-upon-Avon Cemetery. There is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:
IN LOVING MEMORY
OF MY DARLING HUSBAND
DEAR FATHER OF SANDRA
His brothers, William and Herbert Harper, served with the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War.
Sergeant (Air Gunner) Robert Henry Harper (No. R/85966) is commemorated on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial (Internet) and on Page 80 in the Canadian Second World War Book of Remembrance.
During the First World War Robert Henry Harper’s uncle, Robert Murphy, served with the Mercantile Marine and he was Master of the SS Lough Fisher. Robert Murphy was one of 13 men killed on 30 March 1918 when this ship was shelled and sunk by the German submarine U-101. During the Great War Robert Henry Harper’s uncle David Murphy (Robert’s brother) was a Leading Stoker in the Royal Navy and he served aboard HMS Princess Royal during the Battle of Jutland.