HARRIS, Norman Chambers
(Service number 11/602)
|First Rank||2nd Lieutenant||Last Rank||Lieutenant|
|Date||31 October 1890||Place of Birth||Christchurch, New Zealand|
|Date||22 August 1914||Age||23 years|
|Address at Enlistment||C/- JF Studholme, Ruanui Station, Taihape|
|Previous Military Experience||Commisioned Officer in Christ College Cadets & 2Lt 8th (South Canterbury) Mounted Rifles|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Bessie C. HARRIS, Kohango, Lower Riccarton, Christchurch|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Medical Information||5 foot 10 1/2 inches tall, weight 166 pounds (75kgs), chest 34-38 inches, fair complexion, blue eyes, fair hair, teeth fair|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||2nd Reinforcements|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||6th (Manawatu) Squadron, Wellington Mounted Rifles|
|Date||14 December 1914|
|Transport||HMNZT 13 Verdala|
|Embarked From||Wellington, New Zealand||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||6th (Manawatu) Squadron, Wellington Mounted Rifles|
|Campaigns||Egyptian, Balkans (Gallipoli)|
|Service Medals||1914-1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
|Date||9 August 1915||Age||24 years|
|Place of Death||Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey|
|Cause||Died of wounds|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial, Chunuk Bair Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey|
|New Zealand Memorials|
Norman son of George and Bessie (nee Harman) Harris was born in Christchurch on 31 October 1890 to a notable Canterbury family. His father George was born in Christchurch 1867, and after attending Christ’s College, became a solicitor. Later with Mr Harry Joseph Beswick, an ex Mayor of Christchurch, he entered into a partnership as Beswick and Harris. George married Bessie Caroline Emily Harman in Christchurch in 1889 and they went on to have ten children, Norman being the eldest. George died in 1914 and is buried in the Barbadoes Street Cemetery. Bessie died in Christchurch in July 1950. Norman’s grandfather was William Chambers Harris who had come out from England in 1866 aboard the “Blue Jacket” to take up the Head Master-ship of Christ College, later becoming the Venerable Archdeacon of Akaroa.
Norman was educated at Christ College from 1902 to 1910. During this time he was made a prefect and rose to a commissioned rank in the college school cadet unit. In 1912 he was employed as a Station Cadet (farming) in the South Canterbury area, and served as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 8th (South Canterbury) Mounted Rifles. On 16 July 1914, he requested a transfer to the 6th (Manawatu) Mounted Rifles as he had moved to live at Taihape. Here he was employed by Mr Joseph Studholme of Ruanui Station. Mr Studholme was a younger son of the Canterbury Studholme’s who had gone to the southern border of the King Country to carve out an estate and make his fortune.
Norman enlisted on 22 August 1914. He entered camp at Awapuni Race Course at Palmerston North as a member of the 6th (Manawatu) Mounted Rifles, a squadron of the Wellington Mounted Rifles (WMR) - one of four regional mounted rifles regiments raised to serve overseas in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) during the First World War. His enlistment papers described him as being single, Anglican, 5 foot 10 ½ inches tall, weighing 166 pounds (75kgs), with a chest measuring 34–38 inches, fair complexion, blue eyes, fair hair and fair teeth. At Awapuni the men were equipped, horses selected, and training begun under efficient instructors mainly from members of the NZ Staff Corps. The race course was a pleasant camp with the grounds and buildings being placed at their disposal by the Palmerston North Racing Club executive. Training over, the men moved to Wellington where they were to board HMNZT “Verdala” for the journey to Suez Egypt. An official farewell was held on 12 December at Newtown Park by the Governor and Premier. The Mounted marched through the main streets of Wellington, leading a brass and pipe band, watched by cheering crowds lining the streets to the wharf. Rough weather delayed their departure on the thirteenth. They instead left early morning of 14 December 1914, led by the escort ship HMS “Psyche” with HMNZT 14 “Willochra”, HMNZT 13 “Verdala” and HMNZT 15 “Knight of the Garter” following. Their first stop was at Albany, Western Australia, where they assembled with the Australian Second Convoy. They sailed on to Suez, Egypt, via Colombo, arriving at Alexandria on 28 January 1915. From here they entrained to Zeitoun Camp near Cairo where they joined the WMR and began training as a brigade. In the meantime training continued and defending the Suez Canal against the Turkish forces.
It was soon evident that reinforcements were required on Gallipoli and the WMR received orders to move there as infantry on 5 May. On 9 May the men boarded HMT “Grantully Castle” at Alexandria, arrived off ANZAC Cove at 12.30pm 12 May, were transferred onto destroyers and taken closer inshore where they landed by lighters at the jetty. Here they bivouacked in Reserve Gully before moving the next day to positions Walker’s Ridge. Here they were to remain in foul trenches with flies everywhere and active Turkish snipers, until the August offensive. The only relief being an odd brief spell in Shrapnel Valley. On 27 July 2Lt Harris was promoted to Lieutenant, just prior to the August offensive. This offensive on Chunuk Bair was aimed at linking up with the British at Suvla Bay and capturing the strategic heights of the Sara Bair range. During the Battle of Chunuk Bair the 6th (Manawatu) Squadron were detailed to take Destroyer Hill which they succeeded in doing with a close quarters attack using bayonets and grenades. They did this with only three casualties, one being the squadron commander Major Charles Dick. By 8 August Chanuk Bair was in the Wellington Battalions hands. On 9 August the Ottoman forces made concerted efforts to recapture the heights, repeatedly attacking the position using heavy artillery, machine-gun and rifle fire. It was also unfortunate that some Allied naval gunfire and artillery fire fell short on the New Zealand and British trenches at Chunuk Bair and its approaches. The casualties suffered during this 24 hour period at Chunuk Bair amounted to 117 men: two officers and 38 other ranks killed, and three officers and 74 other ranks wounded (the three officers were to all die of their wounds). Unfortunately Lt Norman Chambers Harris was one of these casualties, his body not being found. He was declared to have died of wounds suffered on 9 August 1915, by a board of enquiry held at ANZAC on 14 December 1915.
Norman Harris’ name is commemorated on the Chunuk Bair (NZ) Memorial, Chunuk Bair Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey. After hostilities ended, his mother Bessie who was residing at Kohanga, West Belt, Lower Riccarton, Christchurch, received a plaque and scroll along with his war medals which included the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. Norman’s name is also commemorated on the chapel memorial in Christ College.
Three of Norman’s brothers also served during World War One and returned home; 316814 Francis Chambers Harris served with the RAF in England, 50833 Gunner Peter Chambers Harris served in France with the NZ Field Artillery, and 17156 Gunner William Strachan Chambers Harris also served with the NZ Field Artillery in France.
New Zealand ANZACs in the Great War 1914-1918 (University of New South Wales) at https://nzef.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=107859; Assorted records at Ancestry.com [June 2020]; NZ BDM Historical Records at https://bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz;School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [10 October 2019]; [Military notes reporting Harris' of death] in Timaru Herald 8 September 1915, "Roll of honour" in the Press 22 January 1916, "Roll of honour" in the Nelson Evening Mail 24 January 1916, "Christ's College memorial service" in the Lyttelton Times 26 April 1917, "The late Archdeacon Harris" in the Star 21 July 1892, and "Obituary: The Ven. Archdeacon Harris" in the STar 8 June 1885, courtesy of Papers Past at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/; NZ Wargraves project at https://www.nzwargraves.org.nz/casualties/norman-cham
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Researched and Written by
Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG
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