Christopher HARRIS
Rank: Private
Number: 19949
Unit: X Corps Cyclist Battalion ARMY CYCLIST CORPS
Date of Death: 11 June 1917
Age: 20
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

Christopher's parents didn't originate from the Stockport area and had, presumably moved to the town to work. Christopher, senior, was born in Birmingham and, at the time of the 1901 Census, was aged 36 and earning a living as a clerk at a dye works. His wife, Kate, had been born in the Paddington area of London. She was then 38. The family was living at 18 Dialstone Road (later moving to 202 Wellington Road South). They had three children - Frederick (8), Christopher (3) and Florence (1).

When Christopher originally joined the army, he was assigned to the 53rd (Welsh) Division Cyclist Company. His original service number, 285, is an early one, suggesting he was an original member of the Company when it was formed in March 1915. The Divisional Companies were quickly merged into Battalions operating at Army Corps level. In the early period of the war, the troops worked as despatch riders and, also, as scouts (operating, in effect, as cavalry). As the fighting stagnated into trench warfare, the Cyclists were more regularly used as ordinary infantry.

On 7 June 1917, the British launched a massive attack on German positions southeast of the Belgian town of Ypres (now Ieper) that would later become known as the Battle of Messines. It was an unqualified success, achieving all objectives. But, of course, there had been many casualties as the men advanced across No Man's Land.

Christopher and his comrades are not thought to have taken part in the attack and were a few miles away, just over the border into France at Boeschepe. On the 11th, a party of three officers and 100 other ranks were sent as a working party to assist the Burial Officer of 23rd Division. They would have been undertaking the gruesome task of recovering the bodies from the battlefield, trying to identify them and burying them. The old No Man's Land was a dangerous place as it was still within the range of German artillery. The Battalion's War Diary records that during the day 4 men were killed, 11 wounded (of whom 2 died shortly afterwards) and I man was missing.

Christopher was probably the man listed as being missing. His body was never found and identified. He had probably taken a direct hit from a shell and had, literally, been blown to pieces. He is now commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Ieper.

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