Rifleman John Thomas Harrison was killed on 7th October 1916, aged 20, whilst serving with the 1st/8th Battalion London Regiment (Post Office Rifles). Also killed was 35-year-old Lance Corporal Robert Dudley, 8th (Service Battalion), The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).
John Thomas Harrison started work as a telegraph messenger and subsequently became a postman at Birmingham head office. He lived at 21 Grove Avenue, Solihull with his parents, John (also a postman) & Bertha Sarah (née Turner), as well as his younger brothers, William Percy Hector Harrison (born 2nd August 1898, who served in the Royal Naval Air Service during the war, and later became a police officer in Birmingham) and Richard Turner Harrison (1909-1917). The boys had an older sister, Mary Annie (1894-1973), who worked as an under-nurse for the Lindner family in 1911. She married Joseph A. Wynn in 1923. A second sister, Bertha Edna, died in February 1908, aged two months.
A number of Special Constables working for the Post Office first formed a Volunteer Force unit in 1867. This was a temporary measure to help defend London buildings against “Fenian outrages” following a series of bombings carried out in the name of Irish independence. In 1868, it was agreed with the War Office that a regiment of 1,000 men be formed from Post Office employees. The regiment fought in campaigns in Egypt and Sudan, as well as the Boer War. In the reorganisation of the Territorial Forces in 1908, the 24th Middlesex (Post Office) Rifle Corps became the 8th Battalion, London Regiment (Post Office Rifles). A second Post Office Rifles battalion – the 2nd/8th – was formed in September 1914. In 1915, a third line battalion – 3rd/8th – was formed. See the Postal Museum website for more information on the history of the Post Office Rifles.
Robert Dudley was born in Olton on 17th December 1880. He was the only son and the youngest of the three children of parents, Robert (a cashier, and later a corn merchant), and Ada. By the time Robert (junior) was ten years old, the family had moved to Warwick. Robert attended Warwick School and he was also an old boy of Rossall School, Fleetwood. His name is listed on the war memorials of both schools.
In 1901, he was aged 20 and living in his parents’ home in Warwick, whilst working as an accounts clerk. He married Catherine Julia Cecil at Blackheath, London on 5th April 1910 and it appears that he became a corn merchant. He enlisted on 18th May 1916, serving in France from 22nd August 1916. He was killed in action less than four months later and, having no known grave, is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
As far as we are aware, he is not commemorated locally in his birthplace of Olton, presumably as a result of the family having moved away by 1891. He is commemorated in Warwick, where he spent much of his life.
If you have more information on the Harrison or Dudley families, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977
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