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Lieutenant, “A” Company 21st Battalion Manchester Regiment.

Killed in action 4th September 1916, age 22.

Remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.

Former student of French.

aubrey-harris-unimag


 

Born in Wrexham in 1893, Aubrey attended Hawarden County School. Having successfully completed his examinations with the Central Welsh Board in 1909, he entered Hulme Hall in October 1911 to study French at the university. Popular amongst his fellow students, Aubrey was an accomplished sportsman, excelling particularly at rugby which he played regularly for the University 1st XV. Aubrey successfully graduated in the summer of 1914 and secured a teaching post at Merchiston Lodge School in Edinburgh where he became involved with the Officer Training Corps.

Aubrey left Merchiston Lodge School with ten other teachers in December 1914 to join the 21st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. The 21st Battalion were one of the Manchester Pals Battalions. Aubrey moved with the Battalion to Morecambe to start training in January 1915. In April of the same year, the Battalion moved to Grantham and Aubrey was promoted to Lieutenant and put in charge of the Battalion bombers. Bombers were infantry who were trained in the art of grenade throwing; critical for either attacking enemy trenches or defending your own. In September the Battalion moved again, this time to Salisbury Plain where they undertook their final stages of training before proceeding to France in November 1915 to join the 7th Division. Having arrived in France, the Battalion continued to train, waiting for several months before being assigned to a front line posting on the Somme, near the village of Mametz, in February 1916.

For five months Aubrey and his Battalion rotated in and out of the front line opposite Mametz. Whilst on ‘rest days’ the Battalion were often put to work on the new narrow gauge railways being prepared for the major assault planned for the summer. Held in reserve during the initial, now infamous, attack on the 1 July, Aubrey and his men waited in nervous anticipation having built up to the attack for months. They didn’t have to wait long, soon being called upon to support the attack of their colleagues in the 7th Division from the 2nd Battalion Queens (Royal West Surrey) and 22nd Manchester Battalion on Mametz. Despite suffering heavy casualties, the Division captured the targets set for them. In the following weeks the 21st Battalion continued to support attacks across the region. In late July, Aubrey fought at High Wood, with the Battalion again suffering heavy casualties.

On 4 September, the bombers of the 21st Battalion were used in an attack out from Delville Wood against enemy trenches near Ginchy. Aubrey wasn’t scheduled to be part of the attack, but he was killed when going forward to investigate how the assault was progressing, becoming one of the 227 casualties suffered by the Battalion during the failed assault. His body was never recovered. A fellow soldier wrote to Aubrey’s father:  “My very best pal, your son Aubrey, was killed with a shell on the evening of the fourth of September. We had come forward together to find Captain Cunliffe and his Company to discover what the situation was like.  I left them together and returned to the Brigade with what news we had gathered. He remained behind doing more than his duty in keeping Captain Cunliffe company. Two hours later some of his men came back and reported to me that both he and Captain Cunliffe had been killed instantaneously by the same shell. The news quite broke me – I pray you may be able to bear it.”