On 6th October 2008, twenty eight relatives of World War One hero, Sergeant Thomas Harris attended the official opening of sixteen properties named after the Sergeant, owned by Chatham based housing association mhs homes.
The opening presided over by the Mayor of Medway Cllr David Carr was also attended by Brigadier Holman from The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, local residents, Parish Council representatives, Medway Council, contractors and staff from mhs homes.
The sixteen shared ownership properties based in Halling, Rochester are intended for Low-Cost Home Ownership, and are the first properties to be funded by the Housing Corporation. mhs homes was appointed an Investment Partner of the Housing Corporation, earlier in the year helping to lay the foundation for growth in their affordable housing stock.
A fanfare trumpeter from The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment marked the unveiling of a piece of slate with a commemorative plaque undertaken by the Mayor. The Mayor of Medway, Cllr David Carr said, “It has been a pleasure to open these 16 properties for shared ownership. mhs homes delivers excellent customer service and is helping to provide affordable properties to people in the local community.”
The new properties have been named after Sergeant Thomas Harris, a solider in the 6th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment who was killed in battle during the 1st World War but who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery.
After an appeal in the local newspapers 28 relatives of Sergeant Harris attended the opening to commemorate their ancestor. Joan Harris now Carter, the eldest of the nieces and nephews of Thomas Harris said, “The opening of Thomas Harris Close was a wonderful tribute to my Uncle who was a great man. I remember when I was little my Dad use to tell me tales about my Uncle Thom. He thought the world of his brother, they were very close when they were boys. Dad was always talking about him and telling stories about their childhood. Uncle Thom was a real hero to him.
I saw a bit in the paper about the new homes at Thomas Harris Close and thought to myself ‘How lovely – I must try to get over there one day to see it’. Then later on my Brothers’ daughter in law, Tina Harris, saw that mhs homes was trying to get in touch with family members of Thomas Harris to invite them to the formal opening and my Brother Eddy rang up to let them know where we all live. Everything about the day was perfect and it was lovely for Uncle Thom’s bravery to be remembered in this way.”
Thomas James Harris was born at 79, High Street, Halling, Kent on 30 January 1892 to William John and Sarah Ann Harris, the seventh of nine children. He attended Halling Board School (Infants) from 7 July 1896 and possibly worked at Hilton & Anderson’s Manor Cement Works as a labourer after leaving school.
Brigadier Holman from The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment (previously the Royal West Kent Regiment) spoke about the connection between Sergeant Harris and the local area and his connection with the Regiment, he said, “It’s been terrific to meet all the relatives of Sergeant Harris. The VC medal is the highest accolade a solider can receive and it is very important that we remember these hero’s. mhs homes have done a fantastic job in ensuring the memory of this figure lives on in this local community.”
A book on Sergeant Harris was presented to the relatives and residents and two memorabilia plaques were given to the Parish Council by the Mayor. Leslie Hitchcock Vice Chairman of the Halling Parish Council said, “It has been really good to have met more relatives of Sergeant Harris that we never knew existed. Events like this not only help to celebrate a WW1 hero but also brings family together.” [Please click here to download a PDF version of the book on Sgt. Harris' military service.]
Ashley Hook, Housing Director for mhs homes said, “We have had a fantastic turnout to this opening, from the regiment, museum and descendants of Sergeant Harris. These properties are the first to be funded by the Housing Corporation, which is helping to lay the foundation for growth in our affordable housing stock.” mhs homes are working in partnership with Medway Council, the Housing Corporation and the local Homebuy agents – Moat Housing to provide affordable properties to people in the local community.