Today is a very important day for the Jack Harrison VC MC Statue Campaign, as we remember the events of 103 years ago, the day Jack and the Hull Pals went over the top at the Battle of Oppy Wood, and sacrificed themselves, so that we might live in peace, after the ‘War to end all Wars’ as it was called at the time.
Exactly three years ago, I was asked by Hull FC to lay the wreath on their behalf in memory of Jack at the centenary of that fateful battle, in which Jack performed the action which earned him the Victoria Cross. Everyone will tell you he was awarded it posthumously, which effectively he was, because we now know he was definitely killed in that battle.
However, what I have found out through my research into this Challenge Cup winner and still Hull FC club record holder, is that he couldn’t have been awarded it posthumously in 1917, there had to be a chance that he was still alive, a VC couldn’t be awarded posthumously until a decree that was made in 1920.
But now I’m going to update you, as I said I would in an article on here a few months ago, about the progress of our campaign to have a statue of this remarkable hero erected in his hometown of Hull.
The big change that has happened since I last wrote an article of this nature, is that we received some financial help from two different organisations. The first one was a £200 grant from Hull Community and Voluntary Service (CVS) which is to be used towards certain costs we have, which will soon become apparent in this article.
The other financial help we received is a donation of £1,800 from Barratt Homes, which was presented to me personally at their new Poppy Fields development just outside Hull, where one of the new streets has been named Jack Harrison Avenue, by local children from Cottingham High School.
With this grand total of £2,000, along with the four figure sum we banked from the success of a play I wrote about Jack called An Ordinary Hero, we have been able to pay one big bill to an accountant who worked on our behalf to file our tax return, but the big deal is that it has also enabled us to pay the half price fee to solicitor Gerry Morrison at Rollits, so she can do the necessary work to register us as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) with the Charities Commission.
Once we are registered as a charity, it will help our fundraising enormously, with funding applications for further events we are planning, made so much simpler than they currently are. We will also be able to hopefully get some corporate help as well.
We are still planning our Jack Harrison VC MC experience at Sutton and Wawne Museum, next to where Jack’s VC commemorative stone is laid, which does mean that we will be going ahead with the filming project that we spoke about before, for which we will still need extras, who can earn a place on the film set by donating to the Rob Burrow and/or Mose Masoe benefit pages, and sending proof of their donation, for which all will be credited at the end of the film.
What we have also been able to do, is purchase some equipment, including some WW1 clothes, an Officer’s Dugout and a Regimental Aid Post, all of which will be included in the exhibition at the museum, and will be available for people and organisations to hire, to raise more money for the statue.
I have also recently completed my Masters Degree in English Creative Writing, for which I wrote a play based on Jack’s WW1 heroics, this is where the research about the award of his VC came in. Because I got sent his military files in a drop box file, in it I found several letters that were exchanged between the War Office and Jack’s wife Lilian after the Battle of Oppy Wood, trying to ascertain whether he was alive or not. It was while reading these and indulging in further research that I found out the truth, that a Victoria Cross could not be posthumously awarded in 1917, therefore they had to believe he may have survived the battle and was just missing.
Reading those letters, imagining the turmoil Lilian must have been going through, inspired me to write the play Wife of a Temporary Gentleman, for my dissertation on my MA, which will be performed in due course, when we’re all out of lockdown, this will be another fundraising event for the statue campaign.
I think that’s enough from me for now, I will update you again about the campaign for the statue of this rugby league hero, as and when I have news for you.