The diaries of Yorkshire Regiment soldier, Stanley Harrison, are the spark which lit the fire of our current exhibition, Hostile Environment – the British in Russia.
His observations of deployment on Operations Syren and Elope give us a unique insight into the grinding reality of everyday life for the men sent to fight the Bolsheviks, at a time of enormous global social and political upheaval.
The two diaries span the period 15 October 1918 to 27 June 1919 and are on display in the exhibition.
Visitors can read a full transcript of his diary during their visit to the exhibition, and see how Harrison’s experiences in the army as a teenage soldier may have helped shape the man he became. We’ve also had many requests for an online version so that people can really take the time to read what Stanley has to say…
All about Stanley…
Born on 29 July 1899, Stanley Nunn Harrison was the son of shopkeepers in Kimberley, on the outskirts of Nottingham.
He left school at 14 and was employed in a junior position at a lace warehouse. On 12th April, 1915, Stanley presented himself as a volunteer at the recruiting tent in Nottingham’s Market Square.
On being asked his age, he gave this correctly as 15 years and 9 months, whereupon the Officer told him to “have a walk round lad, and come back when you’re 17”.
Stanley did just that – he walked around the square and went back to the recruiting tent again. The Officer asked him how old he was this time, to which Stanley replied “Seventeen, sir.” As a result, Stanley became Private No. 1688 with the South Nottinghamshire Hussars.
After 86 days service, and on parade one morning, he was ordered to ‘fall out’ and told that his mother had sent his birth certificate to the War Office and requested his release from service as under-age. Back at home, he joined the St. John Ambulance Service.
On 7th August 1915, he wrote to the Nottingham Evening Post:
I was discharged from a local regiment about a month ago, being claimed out by my parents, as I was only 16. I look easily 18 or 19, and although I have tried to serve my King and country, I am continually being told I ought to enlist…..It is about time badges were given or some distinction made between triers and slackers.
I am Sir…….
Never a slacker, Stanley enlisted again in August 1917, at the age of 18, in the Sherwood Foresters 7th Reserve, and was transferred to the 6th Yorkshire Regiment in September 1918. On 16th October 1918, the regiment embarked for operations in Russia.
He returned to Britain in September 1919 and was demobilised in December 1919.
His two ‘best pals’ from school had been killed in the trenches and both parents died in 1921 from Spanish flu. Government grants enabled him to benefit from higher education at Loughborough College, studying economics and commerce, which led to a career in the Civil Service. Whilst at college he met his future wife and they married in 1926. Stanley died in 1954.