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© Barns Green - A Local History of The Great War 2014
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George Basil Harrison (1882-1915) - Lieut Commander Royal Navy George   Basil   Harrison,   younger   brother   of   Thomas,   was   born   on   the   16 th    October   1882   and   joined   the   Royal   Navy   aged   16   in February 1898. Like   his   brother   he   rose   steadily   through   the   ranks   until   he   reached   the   position   of   Lieutenant   Commander   in   December   1911,   although unlike his brother his relationship with strong drink was described as “strictly temperate”! Just   before   the   war   he   served   in   the   Indian   Ocean   on   the   cruisers   HMS   Terrible   and   HMS   Powerful   of   the   RN   Australian   Squadron   but   in April   1912   transferred   to   HMS   Natal   serving   with   the   2 nd    Cruiser   Squadron   of   the   Grand   Fleet.   It   was   in   the   explosion   that   sank   the Natal on the 30 th  December 1915 that George lost his life. Much   has   been   written   on   the   loss   of   the   Natal.   It   was   a   relatively   new   ship,   only   launched   in   1907,   and   had   seen   no   action   up   to   the point   when   it   lay   at   anchor   with   the   rest   of   the   squadron   in   the   Cromarty   Firth   at   Christmas   1915.   The   circumstances   surrounding   it’s loss a few days later have always been the cause of much debate and speculation. What   is   known   is   that   on   the   30 th    December   1915,   Captain   Eric   Back   was   expecting   a   quiet   day   as   he   had   arranged   to   host   film   party aboard and had invited his officers’ families and a number of other civilians to attend. However   just   before   3.30pm   the   ship   was   shaken   by   a   series   of   massive   explosions   emanating   from   the   rear   of   the   ship.   The   first thoughts   were   that   Natal   had   been   struck   by   a   torpedo   or   had   hit   an   undersea   mine   but   subsequent   investigations   concluded   that   the accident was the result of internal explosions, probably caused by faulty ammunition. The   ship   sank   quickly   and   with   significant   loss   of   life.   The   icy   waters   and   darkness   of   mid-winter   would   not   have   helped   rescuers   and   as newly   released   signal   transcripts   indicate,   the   suddenness   and   completeness   of   the   catastrophe   meant   that   most   of   the   dead   were   not recovered.   The   actual   number   of   people   on-board   that   afternoon   was   not   clear   but   official   records   listed   390   dead,   not   including civilians. Today the true number is thought to be closer to 421. The   upturned   hull   of   the   Natal,   surrounded   by   marker   buoys,   remained   in   the   Cromarty   Firth   as   both   a   warning   to   shipping   and   a memorial to the dead well into the 1970’s. Warning buoys are still in place today. George   has   no   known   grave   but   may   be   one   of   the   unknown   “Sailors   of   the   Great   War”   buried   in   the   Gaelic   Chapel   Churchyard   in Cromarty. He is also remembered on a number of memorials, including one in Portsmouth Cathedral. For his service he was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the Victory and British War Medals. .George’s service record survives and can be found at the National Archives in Kew.  
The Fallen