[This article is based on material sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker, Jan 2018.]
- The memorial seat to Capt James Harris OBE in St Saviour's churchyard, 2017 (sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker, Jan 2018)
- The memorial plaque to Capt James Harris OBE in St Saviour's churchyard, 2017 (sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker, Jan 2018)
- The headstone to James and Lily Harris in St Saviour's churchyard, 2017 (sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker Jan 2018).
- The press report of Capt Harris's collision at sea, from the Dundee Courier, 12 Feb 1938 (sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker, Jan 2018)
- Portrait photo of James Harris (sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker, Jan 2018).
- James Harris Seaman's Card (sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker, Jan 2018).
Capt James M Harris OBE:
There is a bench in the Garden of Remembrance at St Saviour's churchyard dedicated to the memory of Captain James M Harris O.B.E.
James Milne Harris was born on 7 Feb 1896 in Umzinto, Natal, a British Colony in South Africa from 1843 to 1910.
He joined the merchant navy and a brief synopsis of his career is provided here:
- 1919: 1st Mates certificate awarded
- 1920: Sailed as 3rd mate on his seaman's card on "British Princess " a tanker built in 1917 at Newcastle.
- 1921: Joined ADRIC (Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary) with service number 1907. Posted to O Company, as a 2nd Officer. O Company were based at Dunmanway, County Cork, south west Ireland. What is of interest here is that he was not enlisted in Q company which consisted of 20 merchant marine mates and captains who were taken on for maritime work.
- 1922: Discharged on demobilisation of ADRIC
- 1924: Masters Ticket achieved
- 1937: Survives a collisionon whilst Master of the London. The London collded with the collier Rayford in the North Sea in fog. Built for A. Rowland, Liverpool as the Blanche Rock, the Methil collier Rayford was on passage from Sunderland to Lowestoft with a cargo of coal, when she foundered after a collision with the steam ship London one mile east-south-east of Spurn Head Light Ship.
- 1939: James Harris becomes a ship’s captain.
- 1941: Merchant Navy Awards: London Gazette, NAME: James Milne Harris, RANK: Captain, AWARDED OBE, SHIP Aboyne.
- 1944: The Rescue Vessel Aboyne was on her 7th voyage having embarked from Clyde on 29 Sep 1944 with the westbound Convoy ONS 33, to Halifax Oct. 13. It then returned to Clyde with Convoy SC 159, 18 Oct - 1 Nov 1944. Her next eastbound voyage was with Convoy HX 324. ("Convoy Rescue Ships 1940-1945", Arnold Hague). Arnold Hague mentions the following in connection with Aboyne's voyage with SC 159:
"During the seventh voyage, on the return passage with convoy SC 159 on 1 Nov 1944, Aboyne heard heavy explosions shortly before entering the Clyde. Closing the scene, she discovered the Captain class frigate HMS Whittaker without her bow, having been torpedoed by U-483. Another escort, HMS Gore, also closed and, being inexperienced in Atlantic duty, did not appreciate the nature of Aboyne and ordered her away from the danger zone. Eventually Captain Harris prevailed and was permitted to send his medical staff to assist Whittaker's injured".
James Harris and his wife Lily were amongst the first owners of a property in Barnards Court (No 2), just off Morley Place and moved there around 1978. Lily died in 1980 aged 75; James died 5 years later in September 1985 aged 89, whilst at Edgecombe Nursing Home, Hampstead Marshall.
Who were the Auxiliaries?
Most of the records of the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary were destroyed when the British left Ireland in1922.
What remains boils down to two registers, one alphabetic and one numeric, which disagree on men's ADRIC service number in many cases, and even on essentials like initials or regiment. The handwriting is bad, and they are difficult to transcribe. These registers are available in the British National Archives (HO184).
Despite these difficulties, some details on James Harris can be found in these registers.
ADRIC, often known as The Auxiliary, was a paramilitary police unit of the Royal Irish Constabulary, set up during the Irish War of Independence. It could be likened to a counterintelligence unit against the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The stereotype of the average Auxiliary as a drunken lout, released from a British gaol in order to run riot in Ireland, appears to have been little researched. However, one of their number, J.C. Reynolds, a spy for the IRA, reported in the papers of Michael Collins (eventually the M.P. for South Cork) that “some were very good and about 10% were bad eggs". Most of the Auxiliaries were from middle class families, but were men who had become officers only because of the need the British had in WW1 for more officers. They were the sons of shopkeepers and tradesmen, they needed a job after the end of WW1 and they were attracted by the money that ADRIC offered.
The Auxiliaries became infamous for their reprisals on civilians and civilian property in revenge for IRA actions, the best-known example of which was the burning of Cork city in December, 1920 in which over 40 business premises, 300 residential properties, City Hall and the Carnegie Library were destroyed by fire. Over £3 million worth of damage (1920 value) was done, 2,000 people were left jobless and many were left homeless. In another case in Trim, there was an episode of looting on such a grand scale that it led to a British enquiry which resulted in a court martial for 18 members of ADRIC, of which 10 were totally acquitted, 8 were found guilty, some were jailed for 6 months and some received up to 10 months’ hard labour.