John Herbert Harrington

Date of birth: Q1 (Jan – Mar) 1891
Place of birth: Southampton
Service No.: 86271
Rank: Private
Regiment: Machine Gun Corps (Infantry)
Battalion: 212th
Died: 1st August 1917 aged 27 years
Death location: Ypres, Belgium


Life during the war
John Herbert Harrington was born in 1891 in Southampton to parents Annie Marina (nee Shearer) and John.  His mother Annie was born in September 1857 at sea on board a ship named the Atrevida, and his father John was born in 1853 in Woodgreen, Hampshire.  They married on 24th December 1875 and had 15 children including John.

John’s siblings – 6 brothers and 8 sisters – were:

Frank Stanley born 22nd February 1874 in Dorset, Poole.  (He was Annie’s illegitimate son).  Married Bessie Louise Wilson in 1918.  Died 19th April 1932 in Brighton.

Thomas George born 5th July 1876 in Southampton.  Married Janet McDougal Russell.  Died 24th November 1936 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Alice Louisa born 1878 in Southampton.  Married John Henry Elgar in 1898.  Died 1950 in Fulham, London.

Jessie Helen born 1880 in Millbrook.  Date of death unknown.

Annie born 1882 in Millbrook.  Died 20th May 1956.

Elizabeth Fanny born 1883 in Millbrook.  Date of death unknown.

Kate Florence born 1885 in Southampton.  Date of death unknown.

Alfred William born in 1889, but died less than 9 months later in 1890.

Bartola Georgina born 11 Jun 1887 in Southampton.  Married Stanley Walter Lough in 1916.  Died in 1977 in Kent.

Sarah Ruth born 10th January 1894 in Southampton.  Date of death unknown.

Amy Edith born 20th February 1895 in Southampton.  Married Ralph Clifford in 1924.  Died 11th December 1949.

James Shearer born 1898 in Southampton.  Married Alice Saunders in September 1924.  Died 1949.

Frederick William born 25th March 1896 but died less than 6 months later that year.

Robert Albert born 21st November 1899 in Southampton.  Date of death unknown.

The 1901 census shows that the family were living at 90 Wellington Road in Shirley, Southampton.  John’s father was a dock labourer.  The 1911 census shows that his father was no longer living at home but was instead an inmate at the Southampton Union Infirmary.  He died 10th October 1912.  John’s mother died 14th March 1931.


War Service
In November 1915 at the age of 25 John enlisted in the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry).

The Machine Gun Corps was formed in October 1915 after a year of warfare had proven that there was a need for more effective use of machines guns on the Western Front.  The Machine Gun Corps consisted of the Infantry, Cavalry and Motor branches, followed by the Heavy branch in 1916 which crewed the tanks.  Of these four branches the Infantry branch was the largest.

The standard gun used by the corps was the Vickers machine gun which was fired from a tripod and was cooled by water held in a jacket around the barrel.  The machine gun required a six to eight-man team to operate: one fired, one fed the ammunition, the rest helped to carry the weapon, its ammunition and spare parts. The gun along with the tripod weighed approx 48lbs while the belt boxes which carried the ammunition each weighed 22lbs.

A total of 170,500 officers and men served in the Machine Gun Corps, of which 62,049 were killed, wounded or missing, earning it the nickname ‘the Suicide Club’.

John was killed in action on the 1st August 1917.  Although the National Roll of the Great War states he died on the 11th August all other records show he actually died on the 1st August.  He was buried at the Grevillers British cemetery in France.  Grave ref no. VI.C.15. His headstone reads “Thy will be done”.

The National Roll of the Great War 1914-1918 states:

Harrington J.H., Private, M.G.C.
He volunteered in November 1915, and in the following April was sent to the Western front.  During his service in this theatre of war he took part in many important engagements until killed in action at the Battle of Ypres on August 11th, 1917.  He was entitled to the General Service and Victory medals.
81, Wolseley Road, Freemantle, Southampton

Older brother Frank Stanley’s war service
John’s older brother joined the Royal Navy on 22 February 1892 at Portsmouth and served throughout the First World War.

Younger brother James Shearer’s war service
One of John’s younger brothers also enlisted at the same time he did (November 1915) into the Hampshire Regiment.  The National Roll of the Great War 1914-1918 states:

Harrington, J.S., Private, 2/7th Hampshire Regt.
He volunteered in November 1915, and in the following year was drafted to India, where he served on important garrison duties.  He was later sent to Mesopotamia, and was there engaged in the heavy fighting until the cessation of hostilities.  He holds the General Service and Victory medals and was demobilised in August 1919.
81, Wolseley Road, Freemantle, Southampton

Youngest brother Robert Albert’s war service
John’s youngest brother was a grocer’s storeman and joined the Royal Navy in November 1917.  The National Roll of the Great War 1914-1918 states:

Harrington, R.A., Stoker, R.N.
He joined in November 1917, and during the war served in HMS “Birkenhead” and “Diadem” which vessels were employed on various duties in the North Sea and at Scapa Flow.  He was demobilised in March 1919, and holds the General Service and Victory medals.
81, Wolseley Road, Freemantle, Southampton


Researcher: Louise Link
Published: 9th January 2016
Updated: Insert dates here

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