1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (British Army)
Date Of Birth:
05/06/1915 (Killed in Action)
John Harvey lived in Union Street, Cookstown, with his wife and 5 children. He was born at Tullygare in the parish of Derryloran and was raised as a child by Mr. John Shaw, one of whose daughters John Harvey would later marry. John Harvey originally enlisted in the Inniskilling Fusiliers at the age of 18, during the Boer War, and went to South Africa in December 1900.
John Harvey was born at Tullygare in the parish of Derryloran on 1st July 1881 and was raised as a child by Mr. John Shaw, one of whose daughters John Harvey would later marry.
John Harvey originally enlisted in the Inniskilling Fusiliers at the age of 18, during the Boer War, and went to South Africa in December 1900.
He served under Colonel Allenbury, first in the Cape Colony, then tracked up country to the Kronstat-Lindley blockhouse, and assisted in keeping the lines until peace was declared in 1902.
He transferred to the 2nd Battalion Inniskilling Fusiliers in which he remained in South Africa until the end of 1903 when they went to Egypt.
He was in Cairo until the troubles in Crete broke out in 1906, when along with 375 men they were relieved by an English regiment. He went back to Cairo when it was thought there may be trouble with Turkey. The battalion eventually left Alexandria in 1908.
John Harvey left the army and got married in Belfast on 18th April 1908 to Selina Shaw, the daughter of John Shaw.
John was employed in Belfast, where he worked in the jack shop for the Great Northern Railway Company. After 18 months in Belfast, a vacancy became available in Cookstown and he returned home and worked as an examiner with the railways.
The 1911 census lists John as 30 years old, living with his wife and children at house 9 in Coagh Street Lane, Cookstown.
Known family: John Harvey (born 1st July 1881), Selina Harvey (born 10th July 1886), Thomas James Harvey (born 22nd February 1909), John Harvey (born about 1911), Eliza Harvey (born 17th September 1912).
John Harvey still kept connections to his old regiment though, firstly serving with the ‘B’ reserves for 4 years and then the ‘D’ reserves for a while.
At the outbreak of the First World War, he rejoined his old regiment along with 4 other soldiers, Nixon, Speers, Falls and Taylor. They were escorted to the train depot in Cookstown by a section of Ulster Volunteers of which they were all members.
Private John Harvey was the section leader of No.1 Section, ‘A’ company of the 5th Tyrone Regiment. They left Southampton to go to the Western Front on 23rd August 1914.
It was while serving at the front that Private Harvey received a shot to one of his legs during the retreat from Mons.
He returned home to recover in September 1914. While at home recuperating he supported General Sir William Adair’s call for recruits, declaring: ‘I hope to be back in the fighting line within a month, myself.’
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 5th September 1914:
During the week there have been numerous rumours regarding intelligence of casualties among local officers at the front. So far as we can ascertain, authentic news has only reached Cookstown of two men having been wounded, and fortunately in neither case are the injuries serious. Private John Harvey, a reservist on the Inniskilling Fusiliers, who was examiner on the Great Northern Railway, has written to his wife in Union Street from Netley Hospital, stating that in the Great Four Days’ Battle, he was wounded during the first hour of the engagement on the right leg and ankle, but he hopes to be soon at the front again to pay back what he has got! Lance Corporal Robert Farr, also of the Inniskilling Reserves, who was acting as a rural postman on the Orritor walk when called up, is also at Netley suffering from a wound on the left shoulder. Both are married men with young families and are married to cousins, Mrs Harvey being a daughter of Mr John E Shaw, James Street, and Mrs Farr is a daughter of Mr James Shaw, New Buildings.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 12th September 1914: Return of Cookstown Men from the Front
The best recruiting sergeant is said to be the old pensioner who recounts his experiences. In the same way the chilling effect of the present policy of keeping war correspondents out of the fighting line and giving out noting but closely censored rumours, is offset by the recital of their personal experiences by men who have returned from the front. Two Cookstown men on the Inniskilling Fusiliers, who were wounded in the first brush with the enemy at Mons, returned home on Wednesday night, and the reception they got is calculated to influence enlistment more than most elegant speeches. As the train steamed into the station the explosion of fog signals announced the arrival to the waiting crowd outside. A rush was made to the carriage , and almost before the train stopped, the first of the soldiers, Private John Harvey, who was shot through the leg, was carried shoulder high through the cheering crowd to a motor, which had been thoughtfully provided by Messrs S McKinney, U.D.C., and W J Lavery, and was under the personal supervision of the owner, Mr McGuckin. The cheering was renewed as Harvey’s two little boys, aged 5 and 4 years, were passed in over the heads of the crowd. The other man, Lance Corporal Robert Farr was welcomed by his young wife and year old baby girl, who were waiting for him, and who were accompanied with seats on the motor, which was accompanied by a crowd of several hundred singing ‘Rule Britannia’ and other patriotic songs, concluding with the National Anthem. Farr lives in one of the council houses in Chapel Street, and Harvey lives with his wife and five children (the oldest being 5 ½ years of age) in Inion Street, and both were visited till a late hour by leading citizens, who welcomed them home on their fortnight’s sick furlough.
Harvey’s Story: John Harvey, the elder of the two men, is a native of Cookstown, being born at Tullygare, just outside the town. He was partly reared by Mr John Shaw, one of whose daughters he married as soon as he left the army. He enlisted at eighteen in the Inniskillings during the Boer war, and went out to South Africa in December 1900. He served there under Colonel Allenbury, first in Cape Colony, and then trekked up the country to the Kronstrat – Lindley blockhouse, and assisted in keeping the lines till peace was declared in 1902. He was transferred to the 2nd Battalion, which remained in South Africa until the end of 1903, when he went to Egypt. He was in Cairo until the troubles in Crete in 1906, when he was sent there with 375 men, till relieved by an English regiment. The Inniskillings were sent back to Cairo with the expectation of war with Turkey, but one night after midnight word came that it was peace. The battalion left Alexandria in 1908, and his time being expired, he came home and went to Belfast with his bride. A job was offered him the Great Northern Railway jack shop, which he took, and eighteen months after, when a vacancy occurred in Cookstown, he returned home and worked as examiner here. But he still remained connected with the regiment, first on the B reserves for four years, and then on the D reserves. When war was declared, as soon as the mobilisation order was posted up on Tuesday evening, 4th August, he decided to join without waiting for orders from Omagh. Next day he and four others, Nixon Speers, Falls and Taylor, were escorted to the mid-day train by the Ulster Volunteers, of which all were members, Harvey being section leader of No 1 section of A Company of the Fifth Battalion of the Tyrone Regiment, while Nixon and Speers are also section leaders. He reported having left them all well on the firing line at Mons. Several Nationalist reservists left by the same train, and at Dungannon there were rows in the streets, but Harvey’s party kept together at the station, and reported that night at the depot. Next day the first draught of about 400 left Omagh for Greenore, and arrived very early at Holyhead and went by train to Dover. They were told off in companies, and all the Cookstown men were together. From Dover they were sent to the East Coast, and spent Sunday in the beautiful watering place, Cromer, leaving on Monday for Norwich, which was the base. The men, he explained, are all provided with two sets of Kharki, a great coat, two shirts, three pairs of socks, and a full equipment. But the extra supplies are in their kit bags, which are left at the base, and so far as the men in the field are concerned, they are never likely to see them again. He was told off to take charge of the stores at Norwich, but he said he came to fight and not to watch clothes, and the result was that he got out with the men and ordered to the front.
After a week at field work, they sailed from Southampton on 23rd August, and arrived in France at 8pm. Though there had been heavy rain the weather was oppressively hot, and the march, with full equipment, to the rest camp was his worst experience. The French were effusive in their welcome, and gave the British soldiers cigarettes and fruit as they passed through. Next morning they got three days’ rations, and on the following day they started up country by train, travelling all day and all night. The country in which they found themselves was level and well cultivated. The corn was in stalks in the fields and the other principal crop was mangels or sugar beet. There were no hedges, only narrow trenches between the fields to which the German gunners paid special attention. The Inniskillings formed up, and the Company Commanders received their instructions. They were marched through a village, and it was not long till a sound like distant thunder told them that the German artillery was at work. As they marched along the paved roadway the first sign of conflict was a dead horse on the roadside. At this time there was only one battalion of the Inniskillings and a few field guns at this place, under Colonel Hancock and Adjutant Lloyd. The men were halted and made some tea, and each company was allotted its position. Harvey’s company went back to the railway line. They did not see the enemy, but the guns were being fired on the right front. The next sign he saw was a German aeroplane flying overhead to observe the British position. Soon the orders can to march to the next village. The rain came down in torrents, and in a couple of minutes they were drenched, but as the soldiers passed, the country people carried out beer and fruit, and even raw eggs, and were shouting for the English. It was a pretty big village they found themselves in that evening, and took up quarters in a school. Soon word reached them at the Uhlans had arrived, and they rushed out with fixed bayonets along the street. Major Wilding was in charge, and warned them to be prepared for attack out of the side streets. The women were running about crying with children in their arms. It appeared that the Germans had set fire to a small village close by, and some large institution, the flames of which could be seen all night. The expected attack, however, did not take place, and the Inniskillings patrolled the streets all night in pairs, who kept touch with each other, to avoid surprise. By this time they had the streets to themselves, as all the people had disappeared into the houses. It appeared that the main British force was retiring to a new position.
The Inniskillings were the rear-guard, and when they marched back, they marched through the soldiers sleeping on the roadside, and took up a position on the left flank with the Dublin regiment and some other regiment. The men were starting, in the early morning, to dig trenches as Harvey’s company, hungry and fatigued, went to a farmhouse to make some tea. It was about 3am and the fires had to be lit. As they were waiting, the sound of machine guns was heard, and the alarm was raised that the enemy were attacking the men working at the trenches. They thought the Germans were miles away, but it looked as if they had quietly advanced with their maxims and waited till daybreak under cover. They had far more maxims than the British, and simply mowed down our men when they got the range. Harvey’s company rushed out to the road, which had high banks on each side, and took up an extended position along the whole skyline, and lying flat on the ground without any cover, opened fire. The Germans were not three hundred yards away, and seemed to have hundreds of maxims. Their rifle fire was harmless; many of their men simply discharging their weapons from the hip without taking aim at all, but the maxims were deadly. The Inniskillings were simply told that the enemy was in front and to fire away till the French troops, which were expected in an hour, would arrive. Harvey, however, never saw the French, and so far as they know, they have not arrived yet. The Inniskillings, thus taken by surprise, fired away, and in a few minutes the field guns were got on the enemy. They retired to a better position, and more machine guns got into action, and the duel was kept up. Shortly after that, as he lay among the beet, he was struck on the leg. The pain was slight at the time, and he kept on firing, but when the men retired again, he had to crawl and the wound got worse. His chums said ‘Are you hit Jack?’ and he said he was. He fell in with one of the band boys, who were not armed, and acted as stretcher bearers. He cut away the bottom of Harvey’s trousers and put a dressing on the wound just over the shin, but it soon got washed off by the wet leaves of the beet. Another then dressed the wound and discovered a second wound over the calf of the leg. The bullet had entered at the top and struck the bone and came out at a slant. He went back to a house but the maxims began to play all around. He went to the road where the soldiers had got rid of their great coats, which were lying about the bank, and was about to rest on them when shells burst overhead. The enemy had evidently been informed of the coats, and took them for reinforcements, and were shelling them.
He met a Sandy Row man named Harbison, who was also wounded, and they went into the village, where a corporal of the ambulance put them into a house used as a hospital, and giving Harvey a pipe and tobacco, told him to stay there till the ambulance came. But there were a lot of men in a bad way there, and the two decided to go on, and shortly after the temporary hospital was blown up. The same corporal met them and told them to wait for the ambulance, and soon motor buses came up and a doctor put them in and sent them back to another temporary hospital. It was a large building, which he took to be a Roman Catholic Church, from the statues of saints and crucifixes, and it was litter with straw for the wounded. The villagers brought them in coffee, but he and his chum decided to shift, and when the orderly said that anyone who was fit to remove could leave, they went. A few motors came and took them to St Quentin, and they were not long away till they were told that the church was blown to pieces by German shells. At the base hospital their wounds were dressed, and they went to the station, where there was a train of cattle wagons and horse boxes fitted up with three tiers of stretchers. He was put into an upper ore, and looking down he saw Farr, who was wounded and in the same wagon. They left at 8 o’clock, and heard that very soon afterwards the station was blown up. They went down to a junction and waited while train after train of French troops passed up the line they had come down going to the front. On the following morning they arrived at a seaport, and he was carried into a very fine hospital. They got out and had their wounds dressed, and got washed and got clean shirts, but they were hardly in bed when word came that they were to remove and leave room for others. He was carried out and got on board a vessel, and the next thing was that he arrived at Southampton, and was in Netley Hospital. The wounds healed well, and he has got a fortnight’s furlough, when he hoped to go back and pay the Germans for what they had done.
This was Harvey’s experience of the Battle of Mons, of which Sir John French writes in the first long despatch on the British operations, published on Thursday morning. The British were outnumbered five or six to one, and Harvey sums up the position more tersely than Sir John – ‘When they could not wipe out a handful of us taken by surprise, the Germans need not talk about what they can do.’
CORPORAL FARR’S STORY: Lance Corporal Farr is from Stewartstown district. He enlisted at nineteen in the Inniskillings, and joined the battalion at Cairo in 1904. He was two and a half years in Egypt, and returned in 1908 to Dublin, where the regiment was stationed for two and a half years more, and subsequently went to Aldershot, where he was when he was discharged, and became a B reserve man. When he came home, he was taken on the Postal Service in July 1912, and in September he married and settled down, his wife being a cousin of Mrs Harvey. Farr is not one of the U.V.F., as the Postal Service is rather strict on such matters, but his sympathies are shown by the fact that in the only photo available, he wears the regalia of the Royal Black Preceptory over his regimentals. When the mobilisation order reached Cookstown he arranged to leave at once, and went to Omagh on the evening train. Next day he was in the first draft which left Greenore for England, and went to Dover and Cromer to the base at Norwich. After a week in England at field work, they went to Harrow, and thence to Southampton and Harve. They landed on Sunday morning and went by rail up towards the Belgian frontier. Everywhere they got a great reception from the French, who were very kind. They got off somewhere near the frontier and marched seven or eight miles. They were told that the Germans were in a village , but when they got there the enemy was away. The rest of the brigade was further on, and when they returned, the Inniskillings followed them. They were at breakfast when the Germans opened fire. The country round was all full of corn and beet. He took his position in the line, with 170 rounds, and kept firing away at the enemy, who were quite close, and he saw thousands of them. After two and a half hours he was hit in the fleshy part below the right collar blade, between the neck and shoulder, the bullet passing right through. He did not feel it much at the time and was able to keep firing till he had only ten cartridges left. Then the order came to retire, and he retired with the others and lay down for a while. He then went back to the road and fell in with stretcher bearers and got bandaged, and a motor bus took a load to St Quentin, about eight miles off. He did not know Harvey was wounded at all till he spoke out of the same carriage. They were hurried on board a vessel for Southampton and went to Netley Hospital. The wound was nearly all right again, but they got a fortnight’s sick furlough before re-joining, and got an unexpected reception when they arrived in Cookstown.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 26th September 1914:
A further contingent of Ulster Volunteers has left Cookstown to join Lord Kitchener’s Army. Lance Corporal Farr and Private Harvey, who were home on leave, recovering from wounds received at the front, have rejoined their regimental depot at Omagh.
He was back at the front even before his wound had healed properly, but was invalided home again with severe frost bite. While back at home he was confined to Depot Duties.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 27th February 1915: Twice to the Front
Private J Harvey, Inniskilling Fusiliers, of Union Street, Cookstown, went out at the commencement of hostilities was wounded in his first engagement in the retreat from Mons, and after a spell in hospital, was home on sick leave in the first week in September. As soon as he felt fit, he was sent out again at his own request, and indeed against the advice of the authorities, as it was not considered that his wounded leg was well enough to stand the trenches. The cold and the wet in the trenches proved too much for the leg, still numbed and tender from the wound, and he was again invalided home. For the past couple of weeks he has been with his wife and children in Union Street, until Monday last, when he went to the depot of his battalion in Omagh, to report himself for duty. It is not likely that he will get a third opportunity of going to the front, but may be used at the depot to release another man.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 29th May 1915: Deserters Arrested in Cookstown (Private William Harvey – half-brother of John Harvey)
Three privates of the 9th Battalion Inniskilling Fusiliers, encamped at Randalstown, who had absentees for the previous ten days, were on Saturday arrested in Cookstown. Head Constable O’Neill arrested one – Samuel Spiers, and Sergeant Hayes the others – W Harvey and J Watters. They are all natives of the town. They were brought before Mr H Alfred Mann, J.P., and charged with being absentees. They were remanded in custody for a week or pending the arrival of an escort. The escort arrived on Monday, in charge of Sergeant Reid (formerly on the compositing staff of the Mid Ulster Mail), and conveyed the accused to Randalstown.
Private John Harvey was later shipped out to Gallipoli with the Inniskillings and had written a letter home in early June 1915 enquiring about the Army in France and stating that he was well.
On 4th June 1915 the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskillings where to form part of a break out against the Turks, but this didn’t occur, even though the planned attack was supported by a Naval bombardment from the sea. Heavy and concentrated machine gun fire from the Turks repelled any notion of attack and the Battalion was not called upon to leave their trenches.
Private John Harvey was killed in action at Gallipoli on the 5th June 1915. He was 33 years old.
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 25th June 1915:
Private Harvey, who has been killed at the Dardanelles, had a lengthy record of military service to his credit. Enlisting in the Inniskillings at the age of eighteen, he was through the Boer War, and also served in Egypt and Crete. On leaving the Army as a reservist, he entered the employment of the Great Northern Railway, first at Belfast, and afterwards at Cookstown. He was in charge of No 1 section of A Company of the Cookstown Battalion of the U.V.F., when he re-entered the Army on 5th August. The party of five U.V.F. who were escorted to the train included two other section leaders. Three of the five have since been killed in action and one is wounded.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 26th June 1915:
HARVEY – Killed in action with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at the Dardanelles on 16th June, John Harvey, Union Street, Cookstown. Deeply regretted. Selina Harvey.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 26th June 1915:
HARVEY - 16th June, at the Dardanelles, John Harvey, 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Deeply regretted.by his sorrowing aunt and cousins, Millburn Street, Cookstown. ‘He gave his life for his country. What braver deed could he do?’
John Harvey lived in Union Street, Cookstown, with his wife and 5 children.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 17th June 1916:
HARVEY – In loving memory of my dear husband, John Harvey, 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (formerly of Union Street, Cookstown), who was killed in action at the Dardanelles on 16th June 1915.
‘He died at his post like a soldier brave, he answered his Captain’s call
He sleeps far away in a hero’s grave, for his country’s cause he did fall
We miss him, yet his memory shall never fade away,
We’ll think of him in years to come, as we have done today.’
Deeply regretted by his sorrowing wife and family, Coolnafranky, Cookstown
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 17th June 1916:
HARVEY – In affectionate remembrance of John Harvey, 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who was killed in action at the Dardanelles on 16th June 1915.
‘We oftentimes think of him that’s gone
From this world of strife and care,
But soon we’ll meet in that better land,
There will be no more parting there.’
Deeply regretted by his sorrowing aunt and cousins, May, Minnie and Willie Harvey (on active service), Millburn Street, Cookstown
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 8th July 1916: Cookstown Soldiers Wounded in Big Push
Private William Harvey, Molesworth Road, Cookstown (half-brother of John Harvey, who was killed in June 1915).
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 12th July 1916:
Private W Harvey, Oldtown Street, Cookstown, wounded. Private William Harvey, Coolnafranky, Cookstown, cousin of above, and brother of John Harvey, who was killed in June 1915, wounded.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 15th July 1916: (injured)
Private William Harvey, Molesworth Road, Cookstown (half-brother of John Harvey, who was killed in June 1915).
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 15th July 1916: Private William Harvey (half-brother of John Harvey)
Private William Harvey, referred to elsewhere as wounded, writing to his sister, Miss Minnie Harvey, Oldtown Street, Cookstown, says he could not write any sooner as he had only one arm he could use. He got hit on the back of the left shoulder with a piece of shrapnel, but is now getting better and is in hospital in Woolwich, where he gets the best of treatment. After enquiring about friends he continues that it was a terrible morning (1st July 1916. He got the length of the German wire and there were hundreds killed and wounded. He does not wish to see the like again. He requests his sister to send him a safety razor and cigarettes. Everything else he has plenty of.
Private John Harvey has no known grave and in commemorated on Special Memorial C 333 at Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery in Turkey.