7th Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers (British Army)
Date Of Birth:
09/08/1915 (Killed in Action)
Lieutenant E M Harper was the youngest son of Henry and Jane Harper of Northland Place, Dungannon. He was born about 1891. The 1901 census records Ernest as age 10. The 1911 census confirms Ernest as an undergraduate at Queens University. He was 20 years old. The family was still living at Northland Place, Dungannon. Ernest graduated with a BSc in 1913. He became a demonstrator in chemistry in Queen's University, Belfast.Lieutenant Ernest M. Harper was with the 7th Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers when he was killed at the Dardanelles on 9th August 1916.
Ernest Magowan Harper was the youngest son of Henry Harper and his first wife Annie. He was born in Dungannon on 4th June 1890.
Family: Henry Magowan Harper, Jane Harper, Edgar Henry Harper (born about 1882), Margaret F Harper (born about 1884), Helena E Harper (born about 1885), Victor M Harper (born about 1887), Emily Mabel Harper (born about 1889), Ernest Magowan Harper (born about 1891), Alexander Mary Harper 9 (born about 1892), Annie Sarah Harper 7 (born about 1894).
The 1901 census records Ernest as age 10. His father's occupation is recorded as 'Solicitors Managing Clerk and House Agent'
Ernest began his schooling at Union Place National School, before entering the Royal School Dungannon in 1903 where he would continue his studies until 1909. Ernest was a member of the RSD 1st XV that won the Schools' Cup in 1906 and was captain of the side in 1908. Like his older brother Edgar, he excelled at school. In 1907 he was placed second in Ireland for Chemistry and a year later he received a medal for finishing in first place in that subject.
In 1909 Ernest M Harper won a scholarship to the Royal University of Ireland, which allowed him to begin his undergraduate studies at the Royal School Dungannon, before going on to Queen's to study Mathematical and Physical Science.
The 1911 census confirms Ernest as an undergraduate at Queens University. He was 20 years old. The family was still living at Northland Place, Dungannon.
Ernest Harper was awarded the Andrews Studentship in June 1913 before completing his B.Sc. (Hons) in 1914. His aptitude for science led to his being appointed as Demonstrator in Chemistry at QUB. At university Ernest continued to enjoy playing rugby, turning out for Queen's 1st XV and, on occasion, Dungannon.
On the news of war, Ernest volunteered in August 1914. He was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant with 7th Battalion of the Munster Fusiliers on 1 Sept 1914. The battalion underwent training at the Curragh, where Ernest was promoted to Lieutenant on 5 May 1915.
As part of the 10th Irish Division, his unit sailed from Liverpool to the Eastern Mediterranean on 9 July 1915. They arrived at the Dardanelles, landing at Suvla Bay on the Gallipoli peninsula on 7 August. During the initial attack on that date Ernest distinguished himself. When one hundred troops of his battalion were trapped in a captured Turkish trench and under heavy fire, Lieutenant Harper volunteered to lead them back to safety, which he did.
With the initial landing unsuccessful, Ernest was again involved in the second attack on the 9th August. On this occasion Ernest was wounded in the head, but continued to lead the assault. Unfortunately he was again shot in the head, this time fatally. It seems the fatal bullet was fired from the rear by a Turkish sniper.
Lieutenant Ernest M. Harper was with the 7th Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers when he was killed at the Dardanelles on 9th August 1916, aged about 24.
Describing Ernest's bravery in a letter home, Lt. F.G. Fitzmaurice, himself wounded in the assault wrote:
“Every officer in C Company is killed, one of them, Lieutenant Harper, should have got the Victoria Cross if he had pulled through.”
In a letter to Harper's parents, Major G. Drage, his commanding officer, wrote,
“I have the painful duty of telling you… of the death of your son, who was the most gallant officer I have ever been with on active service… I had the greatest faith in your son, but I did not know he could rise to the heights of gallantry and unselfishness which he did.”
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 17th August 1915: The Late Lieutenant E M Harper:
In Second Dungannon Presbyterian Church on Sunday, at the conclusion of the sermon, Rev John Watson, B.A., made an appropriate reference to the death of Lieutenant Ernest M Harper, 7th Battalion Muster Fusiliers, who was killed at the Dardanelles on 9th August. He said that it was fitting that in the name of the congregation he should tender to Mr Harper and his family their sincere sympathy with them in their bereavement. Lieutenant Harper was a very distinguished student, and would no doubt have risen soon to a high position in the world of learning and science. When however, the call of King and country came to him, he gave up all those bright prospects, not counting such things dear unto him, and now he has given up his life and had made the supreme sacrifice in that they believed to be a sacred cause – the cause of righteousness and freedom. To Lieutenant Harper and men like him the nation was greatly indebted for their self-sacrificing love, and they prayed that their friends may be comforted by the thought that such sacrifices would not be made in vain.
From the Tyrone Courier dated 19th August 1915: Lieutenant Harper Killed – A brilliant Student
Mr Henry M Harper, Northland Place, Dungannon, received an official intimation on Friday evening that his youngest son, Ernest M Harper, 7th Battalion Munster Fusiliers, had been killed in action at the Dardanelles on Monday. In the message, the deep sympathy of Lord Kitchener was expressed with the bereaved parent. Lieutenant Harper has just been appointed a demonstrator in chemistry in Queens University Belfast, at the outbreak of the war, but relinquished that position to volunteer in service of his country. He obtained a commission in the 7th Munsters and was soon promoted lieutenant. He was educated at Royal School Dungannon and afterwards secured a scholarship in the Royal University, being the first science scholar of his year. He also obtained a scholarship in mathematical and physical science, and gained the Andrews studentship in June 1913. In the following year, he obtained the degree in of Bachelor of Science with honours. He was always an energetic sportsman, and was member of Dungannon Royal School Rugby team in 1906 when they won the Ulster Schools Cup, and he captained that team two years later. He was subsequently a member of Queens University Rugby Club and played for a couple of years in their senior fixtures. He had also lent a helping hand to the rugby team of his native town. Lieutenant Harper had attained the age of 25 years just two months ago. On Monday night Mr Harper received the following telegram form the Keeper of the Privy Purse, Buckingham Palace :- 'The King and Queen deeply regret the loss you and the Army have sustained by the death of your son., in the service of his country. Their Majesties truly sympathise with you in your sorrow.' Appropriate reference to Lieutenant Harper's death was made in Second Dungannon Presbyterian Church on Sunday by Rev. John Watson, B.A.
From the Tyrone Courier dated 19th August 1915: Urban Council's Sympathy:
At the mid-monthly meeting of Dungannon Urban council on Monday night - Mt T.J. Aiken J.P., (vice-chairman) presiding – Mr Beatty referred in sympathetic terms to Lieutenant Harper's death and proposed that the Clerk be directed to forward a letter of sympathy to his father Mr H M Harper. Mr Harper was an old and worthy and highly respected citizen of Dungannon and his family had been all very full of genius and had great ability. It was very sad that his youngest son should be cut down at the beginning of so brilliant a career but they had the consolation of knowing that he died a glorious death fighting for his country. Mr Greaves seconded. The Chairman supported the motion and in doing so said they were no idle words to say that they were all sorry to hear of Lieutenant Harper's death. He had a very brilliant career before him, but he died heroically fighting for his country and from what they knew of his early life and his conduct on the football field, they were certain he didn't die a coward's death. The resolution was passed in silence and the clerk was directed to forward the letter of sympathy to Mr Harper.
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 28th August 1915: 'Should have got the V.C.' - Tribute to the Late Lieutenant Harper
Lieutenant F G Fitzmaurice, 7th Royal Munster Fusiliers, who was wounded at the Dardanelles on 9th August, and is now in hospital in Osborne, Isle of Wight, in a letter written to his mother, Mrs Fitzmaurice, the National Bank, Clonakilty, Co. Cork, pays the following tribute to the late Lieutenant E M Harper :-
'Every officer in our company is wounded, every officer in C Company is killed, and one of them, Harper, should have got the Victoria Cross if he had pulled through. On Saturday he succeeded in collecting 100 men of his company who had got within 200 yards of the enemy and extricated them from a fearful position after lying out in the open for 24 hours. On his way back with this lot, he picked up any amount of wounded and spent two hours looking for me because he heard I had been bowled over (wrongly of course because I wasn't hit till Monday). On Monday he was hit on the head but insisted on going on with the attack and continued leading his men until he was killed by another bullet in the head.'
The late Lieutenant Harper was a well-known Queensman, and had just been appointed a demonstrator in chemistry in Belfast University when war broke out. He relinquished his position to take up a commission in the Munster Fusiliers.
From the Tyrone Courier dated 9th September 1915: The Late Lieutenant Harper – Battalion Commander's Tribute
Mr Henry M Harper, Northland Place, Dungannon, has received the following letter from Major G Drage, officer commanding C Company, 7th Battalion, Royal Minster Fusiliers, with regard to the death of his son, Lieutenant E M Harper, of the same battalion, who was killed in action in the Gallipoli Peninsula on 9th August :- ' I have the painful duty of telling you (if you have not already heard through the officers' casualty lists if they are telegraphed on) of the death of your son, who was the most gallant officer I have ever been on service with. On Monday C Company had to make a second attack; your son and Lieutenant Good were in the second line with me advancing under heavy fire, when he was killed instantaneously by a shot from our rear. I had seen five men behind us and heard shots and I believe they were Turkish snipers who stayed behind dressed in our men's uniform. On the 7th during our first attack, your son was near me under heavy fire. He volunteered at dusk to go and examine Captain Bullinan's body, and with the help of a few men, he brought in to us Lieut. Bennett, who had been shot through the chest and died later. Early on Sunday morning when your son and Good had to withdraw their men, your son most gallantly and unselfishly exposed himself while urging men to leave the Turkish trench they had taken shelter in and was the last to leave the trench. He had some very narrow escapes himself, while his men had several casualties. On Sunday night, he volunteered with one man to go with a stretcher and look for some wounded, but lost his direction. He was beloved by the men of his platoon especially, who as long ago as last Christmas wanted to give him presents. I had the greatest faith in your son but I did not know he could rise to the height of gallantry and unselfishness which he did. At the Curragh I often said if they took away your son, my oldest subaltern and support, I would resign and I think your son in his quiet way knew how I appreciated him. Good wept when he heard the news. I have written a report about your son and recommended him for distinction to the Brigadier General. – Believe me to be with every sympathy for you and your great loss, yours truly, G Drage, Commanding 7th Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers'
From the Tyrone Courier dated 9th September 1915: (continued)
Lieutenant J G Fitzmaurice, 7th Royal Munster Fusiliers, who was wounded the same day as Lieutenant Harper was killed, and is now in hospital in Osborne, Isle of Wight, in a letter written to his mother, Mrs Fitzmaurice, the National Bank, Clonakilty, Co. Cork, pays the following tribute to the deceased officer's bravery:- 'Every officer in our company is wounded, every officer in C Company is killed, and one of them, Harper, should have got the V.C, should he have pulled through. On Saturday he succeeded in collecting 100 men of his company who had got within 200 yards of the enemy and extricated them from a fearful position after lying out in the open for 24 hours. On his way back with this lot, he picked up any amount of wounded and spent two hours looking for me because he heard I had been bowled over (wrongly of course because I wasn't hit till Monday). On Monday he was hit on the head but insisted on going on with the attack and continued leading his men until he was killed by another bullet in the head.'
Lieutenant Good, above mentioned, has being killed since Major Drage wrote his letter.
From the Tyrone Courier dated 23rd September 1915: The Late Lieut. Harper:
Major Drage, 7th Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers, in the course of a letter of sympathy to the relatives of Captain R. H Cullinan, who was killed, refers to the late Lieut. E M Harper, of Queens University, Belfast, (youngest son of Mr H M Harper, Northland Place, Dungannon) whose death at the Dardanelles was reported recently. He says 'Captain Cullinan on the 7th ult. commanded the first line of C Company and went on leading his men under heavy fire most determinedly and gallantly till he got to an open patch, when he was struck down mortally wounded. Second Lieutenant Bennett bravely went to his side, to find Captain Cullinan riddled with five or six bullets and dead. Bennett himself was shot through the chest and only lived a short time after he was brought in by the men round them to a little to the right, while Lieut Harper had collected the men around us. Harper examined your son's body, but could not find disc or any small article of value. Lieut Harper was himself killed on the 9th in another attack C Company made over nearly the same ground.
From the Tyrone Courier dated 3rd February 1916: Mentioned in Despatches
Lieutenant Ernest M Harper, 7th Munster Fusiliers, who is also mentioned, was killed in action at the Dardanelles in August last. He was the youngest son of Mr Henry M Harper, Northland Place, Dungannon, and was twenty-five years of age. He was educated at Dungannon royal School, and afterwards secured a scholarship at the Royal University, where he had a brilliant career and obtained a degree of Bachelor of Science with honours. He had just been appointed a demonstrator in chemistry at Queen’s University, Belfast, at the outbreak of the war, but relinquished that position in order to take up a commission.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 5th February 1916:
Lieutenant E M Harper, 7th Munster Fusiliers (killed), youngest son of Mr Henry M Harper, Northland Place, Dungannon.
From the Tyrone Courier dated 24 August 1916: In Memorial
Ernest Harper, the first of the Harper brothers to be killed in the war, has no known grave. His name appears on the Helles Memorial on the tip of the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey.
Ernest's last will and testament states :
Administration of the Estate of Ernest Magowan Harper late of Dungannon County Tyrone Lieutenant Royal Munster Fusiliers who died 9 August 1915 at Gallipoli granted at Armagh to Henry M. Harper House Agent
Ernest left behind Effects to the value of £114 7s. 5d