Boy 1st Class Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris was born in Eastbourne, Sussex on 13 Sep 1861
20 September 1876 he entered the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class aboard the training ship HMS St. Vincent and was issued Official Number 97928. While serving aboard the “St. Vincent” Harris was advanced to Boy 1st Class on 26 September 1877.
On 30 April 1878, while still a Boy 1st Class, he was sent to HMS Boadicea at Portsmouth, England. The “Boadicea” was a Corvette assigned to be the flagship of the Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Squadron. “Boadicea” sailed from England in November 1878 and on the 18th of March 1879, after a delay, a contingent of over 200 men were landed at Durban as part of the Naval Brigade, and were marched to the Lower Tugela river where they joined a force being assembled for the Relief of Eshowe. Among those landed from “Boadicea” was 17 year old Boy 1st Class Thomas Harris. The “Boadicea” men were present at the Battle of Gingindlovu on 2 April 1879 and were assigned to the defense of North East and North West corners of the square. After the battle they were stationed at the newly erected Fort Chelmsford, and later moved to Port Durnford where they helped in the unloading of supplies. In July the men of “Boadicea” were returned to their ship where on 12 September 1879 Harris was promoted to Ordinary Seaman. For his service ashore with the Naval Brigade Thomas Harris was entitled to the South Africa Medal with the clasp “1879”. Harris remained aboard HMS Boadicea until 28 May 1880. Up to this time his character was listed as very good and excellent.
Harris was transferred to HMS Firefly (Gunboat, Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Squadron) on 29 May 1880 and served aboard ship until the 28th of May when he was sent ashore to the Naval facility “Flora” on Ascension Island where he served 42 days imprisonment in the island goal for offences not listed. After release from goal Harris was assigned to the island’s crew from 25 February to 28 March, and was then sentenced to another 28 days in goal for an offence not listed. His character during this time was listed as Fair and Indifferent.
Harris was next transferred to HMS Champion (Corvette, bound for the Pacific Station) on 21 May 1881, and next to HMS Forward (Gunboat, S. E. Coast of America) from 26 June to 16 July, then to HMS Garnet (Corvette, S. E. Coast of America) from 17 July to 18 July, and finally on 19 July 1881 to HMS Firefly (Gunboat, S. E. Coast of America station). On the 16th of February 1882 his South Africa Medal was sent to him aboard “Firefly”.
On 12 Jul 1882 Ordinary Seaman Thomas Harris, HMS Firefly, South East Coast of America, was tried by courts-martial aboard HMS Amethyst for “First. Absence without leave. Second. Behaving with contempt to his Superior Officer. Third. Improperly leaving his place of duty. Prisoner plead guilty. Adjudged to be imprisoned with hard labour for two years, and at the expiration thereof to be dismissed from Her Majesty’s service.” Harris was sent back to England where on 7 October 1882 he was discharged to Winchester Goal from HMS Duke of Wellington to serve his two year sentence.