ROBERT GUY HARROWING

AN UNRECORDED WAR CASUALTY
1886-1932

Robert Guy Harrowing was born in Whitby, Yorkshire in 1886, the elder son of ship-owner John Henry Harrowing (later knighted) and Ada Potter (married 1885 Bromley). The other son was John Stanley, born 1889 Whitby.

In 1895 John Henry divorced Ada on the grounds of her adultery with three different men; the children remained with him, living at Turnerdale Hall, Ruswarp (later at Low Stakesby, near Whitby) when not at school. In 1897 he remarried Jane Ann Tesseyman and they went on to have a further five children.

In 1911 John Stanley, a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, was an engineering student lodging in Eastbourne; Robert was still at home, described as a shipbroker's clerk (presumably to his father). Then, like many young men they went to fight in the First World War and, one way or another, it killed both of them.

John Stanley had been a Captain in the Army Service Corps, but resigned to become a Lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment; in 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in the field. At the time of his death he was an Acting Captain and he died in the Arras offensive on 4 May 1917.

Robert, a Lieutenant in the Yorkshire Regiment, was twice shot in the head on active service in France; he survived but carried around a shrapnel fragment. There must have been many men like him who were casualties just as much as those who actually died in the hostilities (as was Harold Shillito Robinson, brother of Hugh Huntley Robinson. You will not find them on memorials but they are war casualties just the same.

In 1918 Robert married Janet Olive Barr (born 1891 Sunderland) and they settled in Surrey, having twins, John Colin and Robert Stanley, born 1921 Dorking district. After a spell in Ashtead, they moved to Sunnyside, Woodcote Park Road.

On 22 November 1925 Robert, now a ship broker, who had been shooting and staying with his father at Whitby, left to return to Ashtead, carrying a parcel of game. However, he posted the parcel and disappeared. Given his father's status, considerable efforts were made to trace him; the police tracked him as far as Keswick but, despite sightings from the public, he was not discovered until 26 November, when a policeman found him wandering on Cleator Moor, near Whitehaven (now in Cumbria).There is another reference in the newspapers that he was missing from home for two days on a different occasion, but no details are given.

Robert was described as 'usually cheerful' and had been Honorary Secretary of the Epsom Men's Constitutional Association and Chairman of the Epsom branch of the Junior Imperial League (both Conservative organisations).

On Tuesday 12 April 1932 Robert was found lying in Nonsuch Park with a revolver nearby; he was seriously injured from a gunshot wound to the head and died later in Sutton Hospital. On the Monday he had ostensibly left for his office as usual but then telephoned his cashier to say that he would not arrive until noon - he never arrived at all.

Evidence was given at the inquest that he suffered from bouts of depression brought on by his war wounds and, when they happened, he would walk for miles and miles - which was obviously what had happened when he disappeared in 1925. He was interred at Whitby. A rather poignant postscript came when his will was revealed: this had been written on 29 October 1918 in the Field and bequeathed his father 10 for a sword 'which I trust he will consider has gained sufficient honour to be hung with my brother's and his own in our family hall.'

The bad fortune that afflicted this family was not over. In 1936, Janet Harrowing, still living at Sunnyside (Number 5 Woodcote Park Road), died at the age of 45. It looks as if her teenaged sons were sent to Yorkshire, probably to live with Sir John and Lady Harrowing, but Sir John himself died the following year. In 1938 the Harrowing Steamship Company was wound up.

Robert Stanley Harrowing II, a Lieutenant in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, was killed at Endaville in Tunisia, aged just 21, and is buried at Endaville War Cemetery. John Colin Harrowing, who lived in Whitby, died at Scarborough on 6 August 1957, aged 36. Lady Jane Harrowing died in 1961. What happened to Sir John's first wife is not known.

Linda Jackson ©2014



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