HARRIOTT, George (1891-1917) +

Modified on Fri, 12 Aug 2016 20:42 by Con — Categorized as: Biography - All, Biography - Students, Geelong College, Biography of War - World War I

HARRIOTT, George (1891-1917)

George Harriott was born at Prahran on 4 November 1891, the son of George Harriott and Rhoda nee Woodhead of Ormskirk, Wickliffe. He was at the Geelong College in 1907 after previously attending Wickliffe State School. His brother, Thomas Harriott (1893-1966) also attended College.

He became a Lieutenant in the Yarrowee 19th Light Horse (Ballarat) prior to enlisting (1910) in the AIF on 21 June 1915 as Private George Harriott, embarking from Melbourne aboard HMAT Anchises on 26 August 1915, with 24 Battalion (3rd Reinforcement Group).

He was on Gallipoli on 12 October, and was promoted Sergeant on 13 November. On 8 December 1915 he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant.

G Harriott (Harriott Family).

G Harriott (Harriott Family).

W B Russell wrote of George Harriott’s exploits in Egypt and France in There Goes A Man (the biography of Stanley Savige):
‘Stan’s companion at Tel-el-Kebir was the transport officer - that great hearted cheery giant, George Harriott - in whose company he had many an interesting ride down the canal and around the villages, and many an interesting gallop. George later became a Quarter Master and afterwards a Company Commander. . . To keep up the supply of bombs for continuous close fighting would have been difficult enough in any terrain, but here the nearest support line was more than 1,000 yards in the rear and the ground between was hopelessly exposed to view and fire. . . . In charge of the Brigade carrying parties his valour and mighty physical effects inspired them, and so eliminated the most serious worry in their units, the supply of bombs.'

Stanley Savige went on to become Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Savige KBE, CB, DSO, MC, ED, and the founder of Melbourne Legacy. Formed in 1923 by, in the main, officers of Harriott’s 24 Battalion, the Melbourne Legacy Club was the first such club to be established in Victoria to look after the welfare of widows and their dependant children.’

According to his AWM Roll of Honour particulars, Harriott was recommended for a Military Cross ‘for carrying ammunition to the front trenches under shell fire’ , but no award was forthcoming.

The battalion participated in the successful, but costly, Second Bullecourt. It was involved for only a single day – 3 May – but suffered almost eighty per cent casualties. The AIF’s focus for the rest of the year was the Ypres sector in Belgium, and the 24th’s major engagement there was the seizure of Broodseinde Ridge.

Harriott was killed in action at the seizure of Broodseinde Ridge on 4 October 1917. Bean described the circumstances:
‘The brigade moved down the gradual slope, the right battalion (24th) making eagerly towards a hedge which, from the intelligence maps, it knew to shelter a German headquarters (this was the active headquarters of the II/5th Guard Grenadier at the sandpit). At that moment however several white smoke shells - the first of the protective barrage - burst halfway between, the warning for the troops that they were on their objective. “It would have been easy to go farther had the barrage allowed it”, said an officer afterwards. They dug in along the objective which was easily recognisable from air photographs. Sharp sniping continued to come from close ahead. The Australian shrapnel was bursting much too high to prevent it, and in the 24th two well-known leaders, Captains Godfrey and Harriott, and in the 21st Lt Rigby and many NCOs and stretcher-bearers, were sniped.’

Harriott’s service record states that ‘he was killed on Broodseinde Ridge, Belgium, on 4 October 1917 when he was sniped through the chest, and almost immediately afterwards struck by shrapnel’.

Harriott was buried near de Knoet Farm by a party from his battalion, when ‘Lt. Col. W E James, DSO and Bar, read the burial service ’. Harriott’s grave could not be found at the cessation of hostilities, his name is thus commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.

The AWM Collection holds a studio portrait of A/Sgt George Harriott, 3rd Reinforcements, 24th Battalion, of Wickliffe, taken by Darge Photographic Company, Broadmeadows, in August 1915.

The last word on George Harriott belongs to Russell in There Goes A Man:
‘He (Savige) was deeply saddened by the loss of Captain George Harriott (‘Tiny’, as he was called, because of his great physique). Harriott had been killed while in command of D Company at Broodseinde. He had been an officer in the Light Horse, but had dropped rank to enlist in the infantry. Standing 6’5” tall he was perfectly proportioned, when he walked through the streets of London the crowds stopped to look at him and wondered at what manner of men the weird off-shoot of empire at the antipodes could produce. His physique was matched by his sunny disposition, his ready co-operation and unflinching courage. He typifies so much the Australian loss in World War One. He was about to be married at the time of his death and Stan Savige was to be his best man.’

Sources: Based on an edited extract from Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. pp48-51 (citing C E W Bean, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18: Vol. IV The AIF in France 1917; National Archives; W B Russell, There Goes A Man: The Biography of Sir Stanley G Savige; Sgt W J Harvey MM, The Red and White Diamond: The Official History of the 24th Battalion Australian Imperial Force; AWM DA10203; Photo Harriott Family.)