09 October 2017

Casualties of Passchendaele: Harry and Ronald Moorhouse

Today marks 100 years since father and son Lieutenant Colonel Harry Moorhouse and Captain Ronald Moorhouse were killed in action within an hour of each other during the Third Battle of Ypres. As their family remembers their bravery today, Harry’s great-granddaughter, Rebecca Lisle, has shared the archive she has compiled for her own sons to ensure Harry and Ronald will never be forgotten.

“Today, we will think of them – as we do on many other days – and I will talk to my three sons about their brave ancestors so their story will never be forgotten. I have also made a book with all the photos I have and each of them has this book, and they can pass that on to their children,” Rebecca said.

The archive compiled by Rebecca includes photos of both Harry and Ronald, newspaper cuttings, and letters, including a handwritten letter sent to Mrs Moorhouse by a fellow soldier who was with Harry when he died.

“The story of their death has never died but been kept constantly alive in the family and we’ve all talked about them and felt sad about their terrible end,” Rebecca said.

Harry and Ronald were both posted to the 4th Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) in the 49th Division. On 9 October 1917, the battalion was part of the divisional reserve. When a heavy fire held up the division’s assault troops, the 4th KOYLI was ordered forward in support.

Ronald was mortally wounded when he advanced with his company and was brought back to his father at headquarters. Harry insisted on going out to find medical help, but was shot dead by a sniper. Their bodies were never recovered, and Harry and Ronald are both commemorated by name on the CWGC Tyne Cot Memorial.

Rebecca attended commemorations marking the centenary of Passchendaele hosted by the CWGC and UK Government in July, including a special commemorative service at the Commission’s Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Speaking about the commemorations, she said: “My husband and I visited Tyne Cot about four years ago and thought it was a magnificent memorial then, but this visit was particularly wonderful. Sitting in the audience we were surrounded by other people who had also lost family members in the battle of Passchendaele. Each person was clutching a photo or letter or some small memento which was incredibly moving and all had a story to tell. Tyne Cot itself is a most particular and peaceful place, well-kept and beautiful.

“The most amazing and very poignant day was when we were taken on a battle tour following in the footsteps of our ancestors. We visited the bridge which Harry had fought gallantly to capture (and won the Legion d'Honneur for), and the very spot where they had both died. That place is now a farm with lush green fields and hedges, and it was hard to imagine how in October 1917 the whole area was a muddy field with no trees or plants.

“The hill their battalion was trying to take was nothing more than a small incline - it looked peaceful and benign. That was what they died for. It was devastating to be there. Neither of their bodies were recovered which must have been hard for my great grandmother to cope with. The guide explained that their bodies probably were recovered but that over time their makeshift grave markers would have got destroyed. It may well be that their bodies - without names - are now resting in the small neat cemetery just down the road. I hope so.”