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‘Can you help identify our unknown soldier?’
ONLY his name is known to the community who want to honour a brave First World War soldier. Despite his service acknowledged on the town’s war memorial, Carterton residents know nothing else about P A Harris.
Carterton Community Centre chairman Brian Crossland has spent the past three years trying to identify the eight men whose names appear on the memorial.
So far, he has been able to do so for all of them except one – P A Harris.
Mr Crossland, 67, said: “He’s the only one we can’t find.
“We cannot find anything that proves who P A Harris was, or if he was local.
“Some of the names did not necessarily live here, but some of their families did.
“After the First World War, anyone could ask for their relatives to be on a war memorial.”
Mr Crossland, who is also a deputy lieutenant of Oxfordshire and former Carterton mayor, has appealed for any surviving relatives of P A Harris to contact him.
He said: “We know there was a Harris family who lived in Kidlington.
“There’s another branch of the family who lives in Chipping Norton.”
But time is running out. The community centre plans to hold a special event on Monday, August 4, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.
Plaques bearing the names and personal details of the eight local men who died in the conflict will be laid by eight mountain ash trees planted last October.
Representatives of the Royal Air Force, veterans and cadets organisations are being invited.
Mr Crossland said building up profiles of the other seven men on the memorial had also proved difficult.
He said: “Many records of the people who were killed in the First World War were lost in the Second World War.”
The War Ministry in London, for example, was bombed and the use of the 1911 census was limited because the town of Carterton did not exist until 1900.
He could only locate a surviving family member for one of the eight Carterton men, Albert Rose, who enlisted aged 17 with the Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) and was killed in France.
Mr Crossland only discovered the identity of C. White three months ago.
The “C”, as it turned out, did not stand for a first name, as he had assumed, but for “Chalky” – a play on the surname. Chalky’s name was, in fact, Henry.
Not all of the eight were in the army.
Thomas Chamberlain was a sailor in the merchant navy who had lived for a time in Canada. He died when the cargo and passenger ship, the SS Ancona, was sunk by a German submarine in the Atlantic Ocean.
The others include Reginald Anderson, John Collard, Alfred Gibson and Bertram Gee.
If you have any information about P A Harris, email Mr Crossland at info@carterton communitycentre.com
How to research the war
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – www.cwgc.org
The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry – www.1914-1918.net/oxbucks
UK Census – www.ukcensusonline.com
Births, deaths & marriages – www.freebmd.org.uk
Ancestry.co.uk – www.ancestry.co.uk
Find My Past – www.findmypast.co.uk
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