Harry Mitchell Harris and Sydney William Wootton, two men with a connection to Knowle and Castle Bromwich respectively, died on 30th August 1915 but we don’t know exact details of the local link in either case.
Private Harry Mitchell Harris, 19th Battalion, Australian Infantry, is commemorated on a plaque in Knowle parish church, although he is not included in those commemorated in the Soldiers’ Chapel. He was born in Highgate, London, to parents William (a solicitor) and Sarah Caroline (nee Hall). William died between 1881 and 1891, and it seems the children had to begin working as soon as possible. Harry is listed as a mercantile clerk, aged 15, in 1891, and his mother appears to be taking in a number of boarders.
By 1911, Harry was a bulb grower, employing staff, and living with his 71-year-old mother and one of his brothers, Leonard, in St Martin, Guernsey. During 1914/5, Harry moved to Australia at the age of 39, listing his occupation as a florist. It looks as if another brother, William Sparkes Harris, also emigrated and was living in Maitland, South Australia in 1915. Harry gave his brother as next-of-kin when he enlisted in the Australian Infantry in May 1915, even though his mother was still alive and living in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire.
He embarked from Sydney, Australia on 19th June 1915 aboard HMAT Kanowna 61, heading for Alexandria. The troops left Alexandria on 16th August for the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. Harry died two weeks later.
Although baptised at St Pancras parish church on 30th September 1875, he gave his religion as Roman Catholic when he enlisted, and two devotional books, together with hair brushes and pipe, were amongst his effects when he was killed.
We don’t know why there is a plaque to Harry in Knowle church – please tell us if you have any information.
Private Sydney (also recorded as Sidney) William Wootton served with the 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment and died of wounds in France on 30th August 1915. He was born in Bournemouth in 1887 and, by 1911, was a footman at Hursley Park, Hampshire. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database notes that he was the son of Mary Wootton (and the late William Wootton) of Castle Bromwich Hall.
Given that Sydney’s name appears neither on the Castle Bromwich village war memorial on the Green, nor on the memorial plaque in St Mary & St Margaret’s Church, it seems likely that his mother moved to Castle Bromwich after the war. The Register of Soldiers’ Effects gives his next-of-kin as his father, William.
If you have any more information about the family, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934