Researched and written by Anne Wright
Pte M M Harris
1/6th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment
Maurice Maybee Harris married Alice Maud Jones of Glencoe Road, Weybridge at St. James’ Church in the town on 10 November 1915. He was a grocer’s assistant of 2, Floral Villas in Chertsey. Harold was the son and grandson of bakers from the Sussex village of Sidlesham where he was born on 3 May 1890. His parents, William and Edith (nee Billing), had five children: Lily, Frederick, Harold, Maurice and Elfreda. In 1891 they lived in Mill Road in Sidlesham and were still there ten years later. By 1911 they had moved to East Street in Selsey; at which point all five siblings had started their working lives; Maurice as a grocer’s porter.
Weybridge was his home from the time of his marriage. He enlisted in Kingston sometime after November 1915; he stood five feet and six and a half inches tall. He was assigned to the 1/6th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. This battalion left Southampton for India on 29 October 1914 and arrived at Bombay (now Mumbai) on 2 December. They undertook garrison duties in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh and in the Punjab (N. India). Maurice must have joined them there sometime in 1916 by which point they were part of the Jhelum Brigade of the 2nd (Rawalpindi) Division. In February 1917 they were sent to Aden, the port and area of the south of Yemen which the British administered through its government in India. It was essential to Britain to ensure the security of Aden because of its importance to shipping routes to and from India and because of its neighbour Yemen which was nominally controlled by the Turks. Conditions here were very difficult and Maurice was hospitalised for a time with heat exhaustion.
Maurice and his comrades returned to India in January 1918 when they joined the Dehra Dun Brigade in the 7th (Meerut) Division. They must have been kept fully occupied as during the late summer and autumn there were crop failures and civil disturbances in central and northern India; food supplies had to be protected and distributed. In addition, the second wave of the Spanish influenza pandemic reached India in September, probably brought by infected troops returning home. By October it had spread to the northern provinces. It has been estimated that as many as 13.8 million people lost their lives in the British controlled provinces. Maurice was admitted to the Station Hospital at Agra suffering from the illness on 22 October; he was delirious for two days before his death on 29 October. He was buried the following day.
Maurice is buried in the Agra Cantonment Cemetery (Plot S, Grave 43) where he is one of the 62 identified casualties; this cemetery is 235 km from Delhi. It is also known as ‘Gora Kabriston’ – Hindi for ‘British Cemetery’. He is commemorated on Selsey’s War Memorial as well as in Weybridge. His wife moved to Walton at some point but may have returned to Weybridge and be the Alice Maud Harris who appears in the Surrey Electoral Register as residing in Weybridge for many years.
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – East Surrey Regiment, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index 1837-1915, www.ancestry.co.uk
The Evolution of Pandemic Influenza: evidence from India, 1918-1919. https://www.biomedcentral.com
Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1937, www.ancestry.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.ancestry.co.uk
WW1 HARRIS Maurice Maybee Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk