Sapper Archibald George Harper

Photograph courtesy of Royston Williamson

Thanks to Simon Jervis for this research. Thank you to Lenka Cathersides for the additional research.

Archibald George Harper was born in the 4th quarter of 1886 in Dorking to Rebecca Emma Harper (nee Lucas).

Archibald Harper Birth Registration Transcription © ancestry.co.uk

Archibald’s mother Rebecca was born in the 2nd quarter of 1855 in Ockley, Surrey to gamekeeper Alfred, born about 1827 in Dorking and Emma (nee Charman), born about 1834 in Ockley. Rebecca Emma was baptised on 20th May 1855 in Oakwood, Surrey. Arthur was born on 4th July 1855 in Dorking to stonemason Daniel, born about 1824 in Lambeth and Mary, born about 1835 in Dorking. Arthur was baptised on the 2nd September of 1857 at St Martin’s in Dorking. Rebecca married Arthur Harper in the 3rd quarter of 1879 in Dorking.

At the time of the 1881 Census, the family lived at Junction Road, Dorking. Arthur was working as a housepainter and Rebecca was at home. The couple had two daughters: Mabel born about 1822 and Alice born about 1884, both in Dorking. Arthur Harper died in 1884 and was buried on 9th August 1884 at St Martin’s Church.

Archibald Harper 1891 Census © findmypast.co.uk

At the time of the 1891 Census, the family lived at 13 Hampstead Road, Dorking. Widowed Rebecca was a laundress. The household further comprised of her children: Mabel, Alice and Archibald and Rebecca’s brother Ernest.

Archibald Harper 1901 Census © findmypast.co.uk

At the time of the 1901 Census, the family were still at Hampstead Road. Rebecca was still working as a laundress and her son Archibald was an ironmonger apprentice. The household further comprised of two lodgers: bricklayers Allan and Joe Etheridge.

At the time of the 1911 Census, cook Rebecca and her son, iron moulder, Archibald lived with Rebecca’s son in law, bricklayer, Randolphs Keen at 31 Hampstead Road. The household further comprised of Randolph’s wife Alice and their daughter Minnie. The accommodation had seven rooms.

Archibald enlisted on 2nd March 1908 in Guildford into the Royal Engineers. He was a Sapper with regimental number 17314. At the time of his enlistment he was working as a skilled iron moulder. He had dark blue eyes, brown hair and a fresh complexion. He also had a depressed incision scar in the middle of his 11th right rib and two superficial marks close together and parallel across his left cheek.

After his enlistment Sapper Harper was stationed at the Royal Engineers Depot. On 15th February 1909 he was transferred into the 42nd Company of the Royal Engineers. On 1st August 1909 he was transferred into the ‘L’ (Line of Communication/Signal) Company of the Royal Engineers. Sapper Harper was transferred to the Army Reserve on 1st March 1911  in Chatham. He intended to live at 33 Hampstead Road in Dorking. He mobilised on 5th August 1914 in Aldershot and disembarked on 15th August 1914 in France. Archibald served from 2nd March 1908 to 14th August 1914 at home and from 15th August 1914 to 21st October 1914 in France.

At the time of his death he was part of the 5th Field Company, Royal Engineers.

Archibald Harper Menin Gate Roll of Honour © CWGC.org
Archibald Harper Menin Gate Panel Listing © CWGC.org

Archibald was killed in action on 21st October 1914 near Ypres, Belgium. He was interred on Mr Marhove Isidor’s farm, Langemarck. He is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, West Flanders, Belgium. His memorial reference is: Panel 9. His mother was sent a letter from the Royal Engineers depot at Brompton Barracks, Chatham informing her of the burial and giving the map reference; Map 20. U.22.D. Subsequent fighting in the Ypres Salient destroyed the grave marker and the grave could not be located after the war and therefore Archibald George Harper is commemorated on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial.

He received the British War and Victory medals and the 1914 Star.

Archibald Harper Soldiers Effects © ancestry.co.uk

His mother Rebecca received £2 and 14s on 28th April 1915 and a further £5 on 2nd August 1919 in Soldier’s Effects. His sisters Alice and Mabel received £2 and 14s on 28th April 1915 in Soldier’s Effects. A note in his service papers shows that his personal effects consisting of one civilian pattern cotton vest were returned to his mother on 1st June 1915.

Rebecca lived at 31 Hampstead Road, Dorking, Surrey.

Born Dorking, Surrey
Lived Dorking, Surrey
Son of Emma Harper of 31 Hampstead Road, Dorking
Regiment 5th Field Company, Royal Engineers
Number 17314
Date of Death 21st October 1914
Place of Death Near Ypres, Belgium
Cause of Death Killed in action
Age 28
Memorial Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium
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