"Every semblance of a trench seemed full of dead-sodden squelchy swollen bodies.  Fortunately the blackened faces were invisible except when Verey lights lit up the indescribable scene.  Not a tree stood whole in that wood.

Food and water were very short and we had not the faintest idea when any more would be obtainable.

We stood and lay on putrefying bodies and the wonder was that the disease did not finish off what the shells of the enemy had started.

There was hand to hand fighting with knives, bombs and bayonets; cursing and brutality on both sides such as men can be responsible for when it is a question of "your life or mine"; mud and filthy stench; dysentry and unattended wounds; shortage of food and water and ammunition."

                                                                                           British Infantry Soldier - Delville Wood 1916

ERNEST RUSSELL HARRIS

On August 10th 1916 Annie Mary Harris wrote to the war office to enquire whether her son Ernest was "still alright".  She said she was anxious for news as she had not heard from him for four weeks and that he had previously always written every week.

 

She had not heard from him because he was dead.  He had been killed on 27th July 1916, two weeks before her letter was sent.

 

Ernest had been a footman, working in Marylebone at the outbreak of the War and living at 48 Ennismore Gardens, Princes' Gate.  He volunteered within two weeks of the outbreak of war - enlisting on 16th November 1914 just short of his 20th birthday. 

 

He had three brothers, Archibald, Berkeley and Frederick.   There were also four sisters Agnes, Edith, Mabel and Eva.  His parents resided at Riverhead Dairy Farm (also known as Bradbourne Farm).  His brothers and sisters were all older than him save for Eva who was just 13.

 

Ernest embarked for France on the SS Lydia on 7th June 1915 and arrived in France the following day  with the Kings Royal Rifle Corps ("KRRC") in which he was to become a Lance Corporal.

 

His death occurred on 27th July 1916 in an attack on a piece of woodland called Delville Wood (an area approximately 1km square and known to the soldiers as "Devils' Wood").  The quotation at the top of the page bears testament to the unimaginable, inhuman conditions and to the savagery of the fighting 

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