Jack Harrison Documentary Assignment- Article

The name of John ‘Jack’ Harrison is synonimous with the history of Hull as a hero in two very different elements which still resonate today with the people of Hull and beyond.

Jack was born on 12 November 1890, he was the fourth of seven born to John and Charlotte Harrison and lived his early life in Williamson Street and Newbridge Road, close to Hull KR’s home ground on Craven Street.

His father was a plater and boilermaker at Earle’s Shipyard so Jack came from a very humble background, but his parents worked very hard to give him the best start in life they could, at the time when university places were the almost exclusive right of the wealthy they worked hard enough to get him a place at what is now York St. John University.

Whilst he was in York Jack trained to be a teacher and also represented his college at Swimming, Cricket and also in Rugby League for which he had exceptional talent.

Jack signed amateur forms to play for York Rugby League club and he appeared in five games for them and scored three tries in the process.

Jack qualified as a teacher in 1912 and returned to his hometown when he gained a post as a teacher at Lime Street School, when he returned everyone expected him to sign for Hull KR because of his East Hull roots and the fact that his father had supported them and indeed York had occasion to believe that Rovers had made a dodgy approach to sign him while he was playing for them but Jack said they had approached him before he ever turned out for York.

In a surprising move Jack opted to sign for the black and white side of Hull and made his debut for Hull FC in September 1912, he went on to score 17 tries in 29 games in his first season at The Boulevard.

The 1913-14 season was a triumphant one for Jack and the team as they achieved what the team had been built for and won the most famous competition in World Rugby League the Challenge Cup. Hull, who had a few years before become the first team ever to lose three consecutive Challenge Cup Finals, beat Wakefield Trinity 6-0 in the final at Thrum Hall, Halifax, and it was Jack who scored the decisive second try to wrap up the victory.

On 1 September 1914 Jack married his sweetheart Lillian Ellis and they set up home in Wharncliffe Street, Chanterlands Avenue, married life obviously suited him as he then went on to score the club record of 52 tries in the 1914-15 season, a record which still stands to this day.

Of course by the end of that season World War 1 was raging all over Europe and on 4th November 1915 Jack signed up for the East Yorkshire regiment and was sent for officer training at Inns of Court Officer Training Corps and was subsequently commissioned as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant.

On 25th March 1917 Jack became a war hero by leading a patrol in No Man’s Land and capturing a prisoner and, for setting an outstanding example, he was awarded the Military Cross, the citation for it reads: 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.

Jack was tragically killed at Oppy Wood in northern France on 3 May 1917 ina show of extreme bravery to try and save the lives of the men of his platoon as they were held down by heavy machine-gun fire, for his bravery and self-sacrifice he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the citation for this award says:

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 Man’s Land, he again attacked in darkness, under heavy 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.

There is a memorial to him outside the KC Stadium but some people are now calling for his memory to be honoured in the form of a statue at the Cenotaph in Hull City Centre

wpid-wp-1447186907574.jpeg Jack Harrison 1 Jack Harrison 2

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Jack Harrison- Winger, Officer and Hero

Hull FC have been in existence for 150 years and one of their club records has stood for 100 of those years.

Jack Harrison was born on 12 November 1890, he was the fourth out of what eventually became seven children to John and Charlotte Harrison. The family lived in Williamson Street and Newbridge Road in East Hull, near to Hull KR’s home ground on Craven Street, Jack even attended Craven Street School.

John (born in 1861) was a plater and boiler maker at Earle’s Shipyard so Jack came from a very humble, but well-to-do, background and his parents were determined to give him the best possible start they could in life so worked tirelessly enabling Jack to gain a place at York St. John’s University at a time when university places were the exclusive right of the wealthy.

While studying there Jack represented the college at swimming, cricket and rugby league, it was this that attracted the attention of York rugby league club and persuaded them to sign him as an amateur. Jack played 5 times for York and scored 3 tries for them.

In 1912 Jack qualified as a teacher and returned to his hometown where he would teach at Lime Street School, everyone expected he would sign for Hull KR because of his East Hull roots and the fact that his father supported them, indeed York had grounds for suspicion that Rovers had made an illegal approach to try and sign him while he was playing for them, but Jack scotched the rumour saying they had approached him before he turned out for York, so it was a big surprise to everyone when he signed professional terms with Rovers hated cross-city rivals Hull FC.

He made his debut for the black and white’s in September 1912 and went on to score 17 tries in his first season for the Airlie Birds. At the time that Jack signed Hull were in the process of putting together a team with the express purpose of winning the Challenge Cup having suffered the fate of being the first team ever to lose 3 consecutive finals in the most famous rugby league competition in the world.

In the 1913-14 season that aim was achieved as Jack scored the second, and decisive, try in the final played at Thrum Hall in Halifax against Wakefield Trinity which Hull won 6-0.

On 1 September 1914 Jack married his sweetheart Lilian Ellis and they set up home in Wharncliffe Street and then Chanterlands Avenue in West Hull. Married life obviously suited him as he then embarked on his record breaking season for the side from The Boulevard scoring 52 tries in the 1914-15 season (not 1913-14 as some publications would have you believe.)

Jack never played rugby league again after that season feeling his place was in the classroom and with Lilian and their new son Jackie before he enlisted for the East Yorkshire Regiment on 4th November 1915 and he was selected for officer training at the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps and was subsequently commissioned as a probationary 2nd Lieutenant.

On 25th March 1917 he won the Military Cross, the citation for this award reads as follows: 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.

Jack’s battalion of the Hull Pals were then sent to the fight at Oppy Wood in northern France and it was here, on 3 May 1917, that Jack was killed in action. Seeing his men being pinned down and systematically slaughtered in No Man’s Land by fierce German machine gun fire Jack, showing total disregard for his own safety and armed only with a pistol and a mills grenade, dashed single-handed towards the machine gun nest, tragically he was shot dead but only at the time when he threw the grenade at the machine gun which subsequently fell silent and never fired again.

As a result of this outstanding piece of bravery Jack Harrison’s number 6 platoon were able to get to safety and regroup. Unfortunately his body was never found having either sunk into the quagmire of mud that was the battlefield or been blown apart by the heavy artillery shells that hit the battlefield constantly.

His wife was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George 5th in March 1918, the citation for the award which appeared in the London Gazette on 14th June 1917 reads: 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 Man’s 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.

He is the only professional rugby league player to have won the Victoria Cross and it seems highly unlikely that his record of 52 tries in a season for Hull FC will ever be beaten so his name truly belongs in rugby league folklore but not just for his record-breaking try scoring exploits, hero is a word used far too often and easily these days but, in my humble opinion, Jack Harrison defines the word hero.

Jack Harrison 1 Jack Harrison 2

Documentary Idea- Jack Harrison VC

John ‘Jack’ Harrison would be my choice of subject for a documentary about a famous person from Hull.

Jack Harrison was born in Hull on 12 November 1890 his father was a plaiter and boilermaker in Earles Shipyard. he studied at St. John’s College, York (now York St. John University) where he was captain of the Rugby club and also represented them at Cricket and Swimming.

In 1911-1912 he played 5 games for York Rugby League club scoring 3 tries but then he returned to his hometown in September 1912. Back in Hull he was invited to join Billy Batten playing at Hull FC who were in the process of putting together a team with the express purpose of winning the Challenge Cup after they became the first team to earn the dubious distinction of losing three finals on the trot.

He set the Hull FC club record of 52 tries in a season in the 1913-1914 season, a record which he still holds to this day and was one of two try scorers for Hull as they beat Wakefield Trinity to win the 1914 Challenge Cup Final.

In 1915 he joined the East Yorkshire Regiment and was trained as a temporary 2nd lieutenant receiving his commission on 5 August 1916 and was posted to 6 Platoon, 11th Batalion.

On 25th March 1917 he lead a patrol into No Man’s Land and was awarded the Military Cross for ‘Conspicuous Gallantry and Devotion to Duty’ while handling his platoon with great skill and achieving their objective under the most trying conditions and capturing a prisoner.

On 3 May 1917 he was ordered, along with the rest of his brigade, to attack Oppy Wood Pas-De-Calais when they became pinned down by machine gun fire.

In the following engagement, after two failed attempts at leading his platoon to their objective, Jack single-handedly made a dash towards the machine gun hoping to knock out the gun and save the lives of many of his men, tragically he made the ultimate sacrifice in this action.

For this action he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross which was given to his wife Lilian in March 1918 by George V.

The only memorial to Jack Harrison is a plaque on a small stand outside the KC Stadium and I personally, along with many others, believe there should be a more prominent tribute to him such as a statue either outside the KC Stadium or in Hull City Centre.