Anzac 2018 BCC Honours The pastBy Road Sub-Committee - April 23 2018
Anzac Day 2018.
Recently we have been honouring a past Member or Local Cyclist as part of our Anzac Cup Race. This was a proud initiative started by past President Mark Windsor, and a somber reminder of the history within the Bathurst Cycling Club and local cycling community.
2018 will be know as The 2018 Robert Henry Harris Anzac Trophy.
Robert Henry Harris, O’Connell. (1889-1965).
55th Battalion – World War 1
Prior to World War 1 there was a number of Cycling Clubs in the Bathurst Region, including a successful club at O’Connell which the Harris Family where major contributors. World War 1 would severely impact the family with siblings Cecil, Jack and Robert Henry Harris all enlisting for battle.
In 2018 the Bathurst Cycling Community honors Robert Henry Harris at the Anzac Trophy Race. The O’Connell cyclist served in the 55th Battalion (14th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division) at the infamous Fromelles, which although he was seriously wounded, he amazingly survived only to rejoin his battalion at Polygon Wood and then around Villers Brettoneux area which will be recognised this year in France with a very high profile 100 year Anniversary, which Bathurst Cycling Club member Neville Krahe will attend.
Robert Henry Harris's Grandson, is Bathurst Cycling Club Member Peter Wilson and in 2018 the Bathurst Cycling Community will pause to remember, and thanks, another member of our local cycling family for his brave action in World War 1 in the 2018 Robert Henry Harris Anzac Trophy.
Here is Pete's story of his Grandfather - worth reading giving the opening of the new War Memorial --
Also See the link to Race History at the bottom ----
The Following has been provided by Robert Harris’s Grandson current Bathurst Club Member and Representative at last years Albi Worlds, Peter Wilson.
Robert Henry Harris born O’Connell (1889-1965)
Robert Henry Harris was born with a club foot in 1889 and was one of five children raised on the family farm just south of O’Connell. He was one of five children all of whom went to the local school. They learnt farming skills and when they were teenagers and became wool classers and shearers. Travel up until that time had been by foot or pony but in the mid 1890s, the Freedom machine, ‘the Roadster’ with one gear and pneumatic tyres became available, affordable and popular.
O’Connell at that time was where the main road from Sydney, Cox’s Rd, crossed the Fish River and as such was a substantial settlement. It was the only entrance into Bathurst. The town had a cycle club which hosted weekly road race events, large invitational challenges as well as regular velodrome races on a cinder track on the Mutton Falls Rd.
Robert Harris and his young brother Jack were two of the outstanding riders in the district and shared the club honours in 1909. After that time they were often away shearing (travelling on their bikes to the western sheep stations) and didn’t feature after that.
In 1915 the Coo-ee march went through Bathurst enroute to Sydney and three of the Harris brothers went in to enlist, seeking the adventure and glory as promised in all the hype. Cecil and Jack Harris were readily enlisted but Robert was rejected because of his club foot. He was very upset and within three months was back at the recruitment officer’s door to try again. He was again rejected.
So determined was he to join his brothers, he waited six months and went to Lithgow and enlisted there without disclosing he had a foot problem.
After initial training in Sydney at Victoria Barracks, he landed in Cairo in early 1916 and the 55 th Battalion was raised which consisted half Gallipoli veterans(which ended in December 1915 during which his young brother Jack was killed) and the other half, fresh recruits of whom Robert was one. The 55th Battalion was predominantly men from NSW which became part of the 14th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division.
Arriving in Marseille in June 1916 then by train to Amiens, the battalion entered the frontline trenches for the first time on July 12 at its first major battle at Fromelles a week later. 5533 Australian soldiers were lost in that disastrous battle in which Robert was shot in the stomach and evacuated to Calais and spent nine months recuperating from his wound.
He re-joined his unit in March 1917 and was sent to sniping school. Later that year the Australian Infantry Forces operations switched to Ypres in Belgium. The 55th’s major battle here was at Polygon Wood on Sept 26. Robert was shot again, this time in the leg but re-joined his unit in October.
A major German offensive was expected in early 1918 on the Western Front which came in March. Acting under the new commander, Major John Monash, the 14th Brigade took up positions around Villers Brettoneux and held these even after the village fell, threatening their flanks.
The Allied tactics and persistence paid off and they launched their own offensive in August 1918, capturing Peronne. Robert was shot in the jaw this time and evacuated to England due to the severity of the injury. He later underwent plastic surgery in Birmingham. His battalion fought the last major battle of the war, the Battle of Mont St Quentin Canal between 29 Sept-2 Oct 1918.
His battalion was resting out of the line when the Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918 although Robert was still in hospital until he returned to Australia in February of 1919. On the voyage back, he contracted the Spanish Flu and was disembarked in Egypt and left for dead in a hospital in Alexandria. He survived and five months later, discharged fron the AIF and back in Bathurst. His family thought he was ‘missing in action, presumed dead’ since their many
letters had received no response.
He was given a hero’s welcome on his return to O’Connell. Four months later he married his childhood sweetheart Linda Purdon, also from O’Connell. They had six children, the second oldest of whom was my mother.
Robert went on to re-train on the railways and for several years worked as Ben Chifley’s fireman. He became an engineman and retired in 1955. He was a great bushman, storyteller, vegetable gardener, beekeeper-he never said one word about the war.
He managed to get all the excitement and adventure that was promised-plus whole lot more! He was one of the lucky ones!
RACE HISTORY -- Click Here