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Jack Harrison VC, MC

John (Jack) Harrison VC MC - was born in Hull on 12th November 1890 his father was a plater and boilermaker at the nearby Earles Shipyard. His family worked hard to get John and education and he left school to become a teacher, first in York and then back in his native Hull, at the Lime Street Council School.

Jack, resplendiant in his rugby kit, circa 1912It was whilst he was at York that he came to the attention of the York Rugby League Club and he turned out for them five times in the 1911-12 season, he scored three tries. He returned to his native Hull in September 1912 and married his sweetheart Lillian on 1st September 1914, an invitation awaited him to join Hull FC, he played his first match on 5th September 1912 and joined a star studded Hull team, including record signing Billy Batten. In the 1913-14 season he scored a 'record number of tries in a season' that still stands today of 52, he went on to score a total of 106 tries in 116 matches for Hull up to 1916. Jack scored one of two tries scored by Hull in the Challenge cup victory over Wakefield Trinity at Halifax.

He was selected to tour Australia in 1914, a tour that was cancelled due to the start of the First World War and Jack, along with a whole generation, undertook a very different and more deadly tour. Jack was delighted when wife Lillian gave birth to a son, Jackie and he volunteered for duty in the army and went to officer training on the 4th November 1915. On completion of his training he was posted to the East Yorkshire Regiment. The Hull Brigade was comprised of four battalions; the 10th (Commercials), 11th (Tradesmen), 12th (Sportsmen) and 13th (Pals). Jack was posted to 6 platoon of the 11th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment as a (temporary) 2nd Lieutenant. The Brigade was stationed on the western front in the Somme area the whole front saw an average of three hundred men killed daily. In February 1917 the Hull brigade entered the front line once again and Jack was soon in the thick of the action. On the 25th March Jack led a patrol into no-man's land and in this action he was awarded the Military Cross.

This citation appeared in the London Gazette dated 17th April 1917:

T/ 2nd Lieutenant John Harrison, East Yorkshire Regiment.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He handled his platoon with great courage and skill, reached his objective under the most trying conditions and captured a prisoner. He set a splendid example throughout.

On the 3rd May 1917 the Hull brigade were to attack the German lines at Oppy wood, a well defended area and it was considered a vital area for the British to advance. Jack's platoon where so heavily involved in the attack and they where pinned down by heavy machine gun fire. Jack armed with only a pistol and Mills hand grenades set eliminating the enemy position . His platoon looked on as he dodged between shell holes, weaving in and out of the barbed wire towards the enemy machine gun posts. His platoon watched as he fell whilst tossing the grenade in the direction of the machine gun post, the gun fell silent, Jack was never seen again.

The London Gazette of 14th June 1917 carried the following citation for His Victoria Cross:

T/ 2nd Lieutenant John Harrison, MC, 11TH (S) Battalion, The East Yorkshire Regiment' Oppy, France.

For the most conspicuous bravery and self sacrifice in an attack. Owing to darkness and to smoke from the enemy barrage and from our own, and to the fact that our objective was in a dark wood, it was impossible to see when our barrage had lifted off the enemy front line. Nevertheless, 2nd Lieutenant John Harrison led his company against the enemy trench and under heavy rifle and machine gun fire, but was repulsed. Re-organising his command as best he could in no mans land, he again attacked in darkness, under terrific fire, but with no success. Then turning round, this gallant officer single-handed made a dash at the machine gun, hoping to knock out the gun and so save the lives of many of his company. His self-sacrifice and absolute disregard of danger was an inspiring example to all. He is reported missing; presumed dead.

Victoria CrossJack's wife Lillian was presented with his Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace by King George V in March 1918 and, like thousands of other women, found herself alone and with a young son to bring up. A fund was raised in Hull to provide for young John's education and he went on to serve as an officer in the 2nd World War. He was killed in the defence of Dunkirk and is buried in the Dunkirk town cemetery. Lillian Harrison, a lady who had lost both her husband and son to war, passed peacefully away on 5th December 1977. Lillian left his medals to the East Yorkshire Regimental Museum in Beverley, which is now incorporated into The Museum of The Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire in Temple St York.

A Memorial fund has now been established and a memorial plinth erected at the KC Stadium home of Hull FC on V.E. Day, 11th December, 2003. Fundraising continues to enable an annual tournament in which local children having to overcome disadvantage will play for the Jack Harrison VC Memorial Trophy.

We would very much appreciate your support in preserving the memory of this great local hero.

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Hullwebs UK would like to record their appreciation to The Jack Harrison Memorial Fund Committee, and particularly Peter Marrow (loyal supporter) who have provided the content and images for the Jack Harrison pages.

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A very special thanks to Hull Local Studies Library for their help with our research projects.