On 1st February 1919, Captain and Quartermaster Nicholas Charles Harvey MBE, aged 53, took his own life at the Red Lion Hotel, Atherstone. He had been a regular soldier for about 23 years and served with the 19th Hussars in Egypt and India and with the 12th Lancers in the Boer War. At the time of the 1901 census he was stationed in Ireland.
He was born in Portsea in 1865 and became a carpenter before enlisting in the Army in Gosport in March 1885. Having initially requested to serve with the Royal Engineers, he transferred to the 19th Hussars in May 1885 and served with them until discharge in April 1899. He rejoined in April 1900, expressing a wish to serve with the Lancers of the Line. He extended his service in 1901, intending to complete 21 years with the Army. He was finally discharged in 1909.
He married Kathleen Nicholl in Aldershot in June 1890, and they had five children, of whom three survived to adulthood – daughters Winifred May (born 1891), Eva Kathleen (born 1893) and Violet Alexandra (born 1903).
With the outbreak of the First World War, and being too old to serve overseas, he was attached to the 1st Company, London Yeomanry (Territorial Reserves) but posted to Northern Command in York as Quartermaster. He was awarded the MBE in the New Years Honours List 1918.
In December 1918, he was given charge of the War Pensions Office at Atherstone, Warwickshire. His family was living at 19 Richmond Road, Olton and so he was billeted at the Red Lion Hotel. At the inquest into his death, one of the staff at the office reported that Captain Harvey seemed strange in his manner when he left the office on Friday 31st January, and appeared to find the pensions work a worry. Captain Harvey’s son-in-law stated that he suffered from insomnia and depression of spirits.
Having failed to appear for breakfast on Saturday morning, the wife of the landlord of the Red Lion went to knock on Captain Harvey’s bedroom door. Receiving no reply, she feared something was wrong and entered the room to find him lying in a pool of blood with a razor at his side. The doctor told the inquest that Captain Harvey was evidently suffering from insomnia and neurasthenia, which frequently led to suicide.
He was buried at Atherstone Cemetery, although doesn’t appear to be considered an official war casualty so is not known to be commemorated on any war memorial.
It seems that some family members continued to live in the Solihull area – his daughter Winifred and her husband John Tucker were recorded as living in Alderbrook Road in 1939.
If you have any further information, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977
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