Council Clerk Found Shot

Revolver Tragedy

Essex Newsman 7th Sept 1940

Harold Hugh Lionel Harrison was born 1892 in Nottinghill to Henry Berkeley Harrison, a ‘Gentleman’ and his wife Emily.  Henry died when Harold was just six years old and by the 1911 census Harold and his mother were living with Emily’s brother-in-law in Hackney.

Three months after the outbreak of WWI in 1914 Harold joined up, first as a Private with The Herts. Yeomary Corps with whom he served in Egypt then in 1917 he was transferred on temp commission as Lieutenant to the Machine Gun Corps both were at that time Cavalry. He was awarded the War and Victory medals in 1920.

Also in 1917 he married, by licence, his first wife Ada Emma Ablett. I can find no record of offspring but I can confirm they were divorced. During 1920-23 he lived at Jenner Road in Hackney, only Harold is recorded at that address not Ada.

In 1926 he married his second wife, Winifred Gertrude Rowland who he had known in Hackney. The couple married in the Rochford District which also includes Canvey but it was not at St Katherine’s on Canvey. As his first marriage ended in divorce they had to marry at the Registry Office.

When the couple actually arrived on Canvey we do not know but they were definitely here by 1929, living at Mount Pleasant, High Street. From 1929 to 1940 he was the Clerk & Accountant at the Canvey Urban District Council.

Again we can find no offspring from the marriage but I can confirm there was a divorce! He married his third wife, Violet Edith Alice Chase in the Rochford District, again not at St Katherine’s which suggests a Registry Office marriage.

In 1939 when WWII broke out Harold, too old for active duty, joined the Home Guards whose main job was to protect Canvey Fort from invasion. He was of course issued with a revolver. Family knowledge tells us he was a womaniser involved in adulterous relationships with local women. It was on the 1st September 1940 that things took a turn that was to change lives forever. Harold was shot and died on the 2nd September.

Essex Newsman 14th Sept 1940

Local papers reporting on the inquest stated –
Mr Harold Hugh Lionel Harrison, clerk to Canvey Island Urban Council was taken to Southend Hospital on Sunday night with a revolver bullet wound in the stomach. He died the following night. Mr Harrison who had a revolver as a member of the Home Guard, was found injured at his home in Leigh Road, Canvey Island, on his return home from a party at a friend’s house. He was 48, and a very capable public servant. The widow has been a keen worker for the local committee for comforts for the troops.

Dr A K Munroe, Surgical Registrar went on to described the extend of the injuries and how his death occurred the following day.

When the inquest was resumed Det. Insp. Dring said Mrs Harrison the widow made a statement in which she said: “I was messing about with a firearm and threatened to commit suicide and it went off. I did not intend to harm him. What shall I do without him? He is all I have got, and I am so fond of him. I pointed the gun at myself and he tried to take it away. After I found he was shot I wanted to turn it on myself, but he told me not to. What with being alone in the house night after night with the raids, I thought I should go mad lately.”

Harold also told a doctor at the hospital that his wife fetched his revolver. “I think she fumbled it. I was going on duty. It was an accident.”

So what really occurred? Harold had been out partying leaving his wife alone in the house. No sooner was he home than he had to get ready for his Home Guard Duty, again leaving his wife alone. This was at the time of the Battle of Britain when although Canvey was not London, Canvey was in the line of fire so it must have been quite traumatic especially alone at night.

Will we ever know what actually happened that night? Perhaps, innocently whilst getting his gun for him his wife tried to make him feel guilty for his behaviour by threatening to kill herself. The sort of wound he received could show some kind of struggle took place which would fit in with her comments about him trying to take the weapon from her. Or was it all more sinister. Harold’s comments about it being an accident could have been his own guilt talking because of the way he had treated his wife, he had driven her to it; or it could all have been an accident. His comments certainly seemed to help the Coroner record a verdict of misadventure.

If anyone has any knowledge of the incident, fact or fiction, please comment below as a family member has asked us for help in answering his many questions.

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