30582 Private Eric Cecil William Harris – Wellington Infantry Regiment

Eric Cecil William Harris was born in Pauatahanui on the 27th November 1898 the youngest child of son of Sarah
(nee Thompson) and George Harris. Eric had an older brother George David Saunders Harris (1887) and an older sister Sophia Jessie Gerturde Harris (1889).[i]
While Eric was born in Pauatahanui, the older members of the
family did not attend school in the district. Eric is listed, at age 13,
as attending in 1911 the Pauatahanui School, however Eric is
photographed in the Pauatahanui School class of 1895 – 1903.  

Eric Harris third left on back row of class photo 1896 - 1905

Eric’s older brother was also in the district as G D S Harris, of
Pahautanui[ii] via Paremata is listed as next of kin when Eric
enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1916.

Eric Cecil William Harris enlisted at Masterton[iii] the Wairarpa
Times noting that he was from Featherston. Eric’s military papers list him as being a single man, with a date of birth 29th November 1896, working as a labourer for J Tobeck a farmer from Shannon. Eric lists his last New Zealand address as c/- P Galloway of Shannon.

Eighteen year old 30582 Private Eric Cecil William Harris entered Featherston Camp with the 20th Reinforcements on the 22nd August 1916. During basic training at Featherston Camp Private Harris was admitted to hospital with measles. Common diseases like measles and mumps were rife with the crowded condition of camps and troopships.

30582 Private Harris left New Zealand on the 7th December 1916 as part of B Company, Wellington Infantry Regiment,
20th Reinforcements. The 20th Reinforcements arrived in England on the 8th February and were ‘marched’ into
Sling Camp where Private Harris was first posted to the Reserve Battalion while training. On the 30th March 1917
Private Harris was transferred to the 3rd Wellington Infantry Battalion. The 3rd Wellington Infantry Battalion was a new
unit so spent the next two months intensely training at Codford Military Camp before being shipped to France on the
28th May 1917, as part of the 4th Brigade. The New Zealand Division on the 1st June 1917 was on the Western Front preparing for the Battle of Messines.

On the 6th June 1917 the Battle of Messines began with the ‘roar of exploding mines’ under the German positions. The
1st and 2nd Wellington Battalion were committed to the assault, the 3rd Wellington Battalion was held in the rear as
Corp Reserves and did not move up until the 10th June 1917 when the battle had become Trench Warfare, as both side tried to consolidate the ground they held. On the 14th June 1917 the 3rd Wellington Battalion was in the line in the
Le Touquet Sector[iv], the Germans shelled the area constantly and it is possible that this was the cause of Private Harris being wounded on the 16th June 1917.

30582 Private Harris suffered a severe wound to the knee and was evacuated to the rear and by the 20th June 1917 was admitted to the No 1 NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst. Private Harris remained in England after his discharge from hospital being employed in the records department for a portion of the time. Private Harris returned to New Zealand in 1919, leaving England on the Port of Melbourne on the 25th January 1919.

30582 Private Eric Cecil William Harris was discharged from the NZEF on the 11th April 1919 ‘ on termination of his period of engagement.’[v]

Eric indicated that his intended address following discharge would be Manakau, Horowhenua and his campaign medals were sent to him there in 1922.

Eric Cecil William Harris married Thelma Spiers in 1922 and he died in Palmerston North on the 11th June 1980.

Eric Cecil William Harris is commemorated on the Pauatahanui Roll of Honour in the St Alban’s Church, also on the Roll of Honour are; Herbert (Herb) Harris, Walter (Wal) Harris and John Harris[vi].

Paperspast Online
Pauatahanui – A local history: Helen Reilly
Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Files

Pauatahanui School Celebrations 1955 (Class 1896 -1905): Cheryl Duggan 

[i]    NZ BDM
[ii]   Archway Archives New Zealand
[iii]  Enlistments, 3rd July 1916, Wairarapa Daily Times
[iv]  The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914-1919: NZ Electronic Text
[v]   Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 30582 Private Eric Cecil William Harris  
[vi]  Pauatahanui – A local history

Pauatahanui School  1896 - 1905