Hoby – Commemorative Half Muffled Quarter Peal

21st June 2017 – Private William Harris

Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day.  It also happens to be the hottest – apparently the hottest day in June since 1976!  This morning, many watched the sunrise at Stonehenge.  For the rest of the day, many complained of the heat.  Having endured a very hot and sticky day, five Framland Ringers met in the evening at Hoby to ring a commemorative half muffled quarter peal.  Fortunately, the tower was relatively cool compared with the sweltering temperatures outside.  I can’t help but wonder what the weather was like 100 years ago today.  Was there a glorious sunrise at Stonehenge, and did anyone go to celebrate it during the war? Was it this hot in 1917, and did the weather have any impact on the events that led up to William Harris’s death?

Census records show that William was a farm labourer (aged 11 in 1891).  10 years later he was working for the Midland Railway.  By 1911 it is believed that William had joined the army.  He was initially stationed with the 1st Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment based at Aldershot.  Records suggest that he did not serve overseas during the first few years of war.  Some soldiers in the regular army were kept in the UK to train volunteers.  It is thought that William was among them.  By 1917, he was in Northern France were he was killed.  The war graves commission record states that he died of wounds on 21st June 1917.  However, these were not sustained during battle.  William and several of his comrades were killed in a tragic incident.  They were due to carry out a gas bombardment of mine buildings.  Somehow, the gas projectors fell into the trenches and within a few seconds the trenches were filled with phosgene (at the time, reported to be the deadliest of all gases).  Twenty-four died from the poison, and sixty-two went to hospital.  William is buried in the Loos British Cemetery along with his comrades.

The happy ringers on the hottest day

100 years after this tragic accident, the Framland Ringers are paying tribute to William Harris by ringing the half muffled quarter peal.  This was to be conducted by our chairman using a combination of methods that has been working well in these quarters.  We started with Plain Bob before moving onto St. Martins and then St. Simons.  Another burst of Plain Bob took us to the 1260 changes.  At this point in my reports, I usually make a comment about how there was a miss call, or one of us drifts into a world of our own resulting in a re-start.  Maybe it was the heat and the prospect of stopping and starting again was just too much for all of us.  It obviously worked, because we didn’t have any hesitation or deviation.  The quarter was very well struck throughout; no-one missed a dodge, or faltered at a call.  We managed without the extra nods and subtle coughs that we normally do when we see a slight uncertainty.  It certainly was a quarter that we could be really proud of.  It was a privilege to be a part of this tribute to a local soldier.

The Society will be ringing again at Hoby on 9th October 2017 for the next half muffled quarter peal.  Details about the future half muffled quarter peals can be found via http://www.hobyanddistricthistory.co.uk/commemorative-half-muffled-quarter-peals/