Simon Harris was born August 15, 1892 in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. Derbyshire is in the English Midlands. Simon’s mother died when he was 18 months old, and Simon ended up in an orphanage. On Thursday, April 25, 1907, poor little Simon (then 14) was loaded onto the SS Dominion at the Liverpool docks along with a number of other youngsters from Barnardo’s Children’s Homes and was shipped to Canada to make a new life for himself.
After 12 long days at sea, Simon arrived in Quebec on Tuesday May 7 1907. Although this was Simon’s Port of Entry, it was not his destination in Canada. Simon was destined for a Barnardo’s home in Toronto.
The 1911 census shows Simon as living in Burford (Brant County). He was with a family named Johnson. The farmer, Alexander Johnson, was unmarried and his two brothers and his sister lived on the farm with him along with Simon, then aged 18. While Home Children were only indentured until their 18th birthday, Simon seems to have continued to live with various families.
On December 2, 1915, Simon attended the armed forces recruitment office in Cathcart and signed up for the 125th Overseas Battalion, with the Canadian Overseas Expeditiary Force (C.E.F.) Simon listed Mrs Ethel McClary, friend, as his Next of Kin. Mrs. McCleary was living at 63 Murray Street at the time.
On Thursday, April 27, 1916, the following article appeared in the Manitoba Morning Free Press:
Barnardo Boy now near Earldom
Brantford, Ont. April 26 – Pte S.P. Harris of the 125 Battalion, has been notified by British lawyers that owing to deaths in the war he is the next heir to an English Earldom, according to the story he tells. The earldom, with 900 acres, is now held by his maternal uncle, 76 years of age. Harris was a Barnardo boy and with slight prospect until the war came and the heirs met their fates. The title comes through his mother. She died when he was a year and a half old. He states he will not return until he goes with the battalion. He is 23 years of age.
Unfortunately, his inheritance was not to be. In the October ll, 1918 edition of the Brantford Expositor, the following notice appears:
Mrs Ethel McClary, Cathcart, has been notified that Pte. Simon Peter Harris, who enlisted here with the 125th battalion, had been killed in action on September 27. Pte Harris was an English lad and had no relatives in this country. He formerly lived at Cathcart.
Simon is listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
It gives his regiment as the Canadian Infantry (Western Ontario Regiment)
Simon Peter Harris is buried at the ONTARIO CEMETERY, SAINS-LES-MARQUION, France.
What a sad ending to a new beginning for this young man. Yet the tragedy is not just that a soldier died. I agree that every soldier’s death is tragic. The tragedy for poor Simon Harris is that as a “home child” – uprooted from his country and sent abroad to work long and arduous hours for complete strangers in a strange land, he had to opportunity to return to his homeland (albeit as an Earl) – a luxury rarely afforded any of the home children.
Poor Simon chose to honour the country he was residing in first by fighting in the war on their behalf. In the process, along with thousands of other young Canadians, he gave his life. As a result of losing his life in battle, he forfeited the rare opportunity to return to his homeland. Even in death, he is in a foreign country – France. A truly tragic tale. And unfortunately not the only tragic tale of the BHC.