Sunday, November 11, 2018

Henry Alphonsus Harbison, MB, RAMC, MC w/ two bars, Croix de Guerre.

This is written with the help of research by Andrew and Joseph Harbison, who have forgotten more military and medical history than I've ever learned.

Henry Alphonsus Harbison was born in Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, in 1888, of James Harbison and Rose Ann Mullan, ultimately of William Harbison, b. 1780, his great grandfather, and my third great grandfather.

After leaving home for medical school, Henry lived in Gardiner's Row, near the Rotunda, in Dublin, and took a medical degree at University College Dublin. He graduated in 1913 with an MB. He joined up in September 1914, and was posted immediately to France. Being an medical graduate with no experience, he was posted to lead a stretcher unit, where he worked the front-lines and decided who could be saved and who couldn't. Triage.

In 1916, he won his first Military Cross at the Battle of the Somme, on Beziers Ridge, the place where they had the highest casualty rate in the entire battle. He won the MC digging a wounded soldier out of the mud under heavy fire.

He served until the end of the war, earning his second bar to the MC (effectively the third MC) in late 1918. I have no idea how many of his fellow soldiers he saved. Hundreds, maybe thousands. He also won the Croix de Guerre, probably because Henry and his unit didn't check nationality before saving wounded soldiers.

He retired in 1923 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. While I have no reason to love the British Army, they looked after their men. Despite being invalided with chronic fibroid phthisis, which was probably partly tuberculosis and partly mustard gas, they arrange for him a sinecure.

He died in 1935, of lung disease. He left his widow 6 pounds, about $25 at the time. I remember her vaguely, from the 60's, a very old lady. Here is his obituary.

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