[6] Ernest Christopher Roland Locke (1875-1939)

Christopher Harris c.1911

Ernest Christopher Roland Locke (1875- 1939) (also known as Christopher Ernest Harris) was born in Bexleyheath on 15th April 1875. On the Birth Certificate, his father described his occupation as ‘Gentleman’. He is recorded, with his family, at 15 Orchard Hill, Greenwich on the 1881 census. He had been enrolled at Lucas Street School, Greenwich on 5th April 1880. As ‘Christopher Harris’, he was admitted to Greenwich Union South Metropolitan District School, Brighton Road, Sutton, along with three of his siblings. He remained there until he was discharged on 12th March 1890, when almost 15 years of age. He was classed as ‘illegitimate’ on the discharge form and his eldest sister, Agnes ‘Harris’, was noted as his family contact, living at 60 Quintin Road, Lewisham. Christopher then enlisted for a career in the Army.

Private Christopher Harris service no. 2668 was enlisted as a drummer into the band of the Leinster Regiment on 19th March 1890. The Leinster was an Irish regiment, the home depot being Crinkill Barracks, Birr, County Offaly. When Christopher joined the Regiment, he was stationed with the 2nd Battalion at Aldershot and later transferred to the 1st Battalion. At the time, the 1st Battalion was in India, where they remained until 1894, so it’s possible that after a period of training, Christopher was sent to join them. The Battalion moved to Ireland where it remained until 1898, after which it began 2 years in Nova Scotia - the last ever British infantry unit to garrison in Canada. In 1900, the battalion was deployed to South Africa where Christopher served in the Second Boer War of 1901-1902, under Earl Kitchener, and was awarded the Queen’s South African Medal with 4 clasps. From 1902-1909 he was stationed in Londonderry.

Christopher’s trade was musician. He was ambitious, and looking for opportunities to progress his career, set out to learn new instruments, mastering the Irish warpipes during his time in Londonderry. He gained a First Class Certificate of Education and an Acting Schoolmaster’s Certificate from the Army schools in March 1904. He was well thought of by his commanding officers and was recommended for further training.

He was a Mason and a member of the St Brendons Masonic Lodge in Ireland from 25th January 1909 – 31st March 1909 and initiated into the Roll Call Lodge, Hounslow, on 13th May 1909.

Christopher Harris's Royal Military School of Music certificate from 1910

He studied for two years at Kneller Hall, the Royal Military School of Music in Hounslow, 1909-1910, successfully passing examinations on clarinet and flute and became qualified to give instruction on several instruments. He completed a course in instrumentation enabling him to score for a military band, graduating as a bandmaster in June 1910. Whilst studying at Kneller Hall he met his future wife, Emily Tolmon, whose family lived in Hounslow. Christopher Harris completed 21 years of service on 18th March 1911, 7 years 320 days of which, had been served abroad. When he was discharged on 30th March 1911 aged 36, he had attained the rank of Sergeant. His character was described as “Exemplary. A good musician. A sober and reliable soldier”. He was 5ft 1½ in tall, ruddy complexion, light brown hair and grey eyes with “H” tattooed on the front of his left arm. He received an army pension of 18½ d a day, payable quarterly in advance.

He had already secured a position as Bandmaster with the 59th Scinde Rifles in India, sailing out by troopship, arriving on 14th February 1911. His future wife, Emily Tolmon, was to join him later that year. Christopher Ernest Harris married Emily Tolmon at St John's Church, Colaba, Bombay, on 19th December 1911. He was 36 years old and Emily was said to be 21. Their residence at time of marriage was at Colaba. He recorded his father’s name as ‘Christopher Harris’, presumably to give a sense of legitimacy.

The Tolmon Family

Emily was the youngest child of James Tier and Mary Ann Tolmon. She was born in Derby Road, Isleworth, Middlesex and was one of seven children. Her father was a general labourer, born in Bedhampton, Hampshire. In the 1911 census, Emily Tolmon was recorded as working as a domestic servant for Mrs Overett, a widow with two children at Whitton Road, Hounslow. Emily was born, in Isleworth, on 7th February 1892, but her age at the 1901 census was given incorrectly as 8 and, in 1911, recorded correctly as 19. This is at variance with the age of 21 that she gave at her marriage in India.

The Regimental Depot of the 59th Scinde Rifles was at Jullundur, Punjab Province, but there was also a large military cantonment at Lahore and in the North West Frontier Province at Peshawar, Kohat. Christopher Harris was stationed at the latter, where the British were defending settled areas from raids by Pathan tribes in the region adjoining Afghanistan. In 1912-13, he was based at Kohat, in 1914 at Fort Lockhart in the Samana mountain range and in 1915-1916 he served in the campaign on the North West Frontier under Major-General Woodyaytt, being stationed at Abbottabad.

Emily gave birth to their first child in Kohat on 13th January 1913. Christopher Kenneth Locke Harris was baptised at St Augustine's Church on 23rd February 1913. She later had a daughter, Mary Pamela Patricia, on 12th June 1915, who was baptised in Abbottabad on 3rd July. This daughter was always known as 'Pat'.

Christopher and Emily Harris in India

Christopher and Emily Harris with son, Kenneth, in 1913

On 16th May 1916, Christopher Harris was given his first commission in the Indian Army Reserve of Officers (I.A.R.O.) as a 2nd Lieutenant and he was made Officiating Officer at the Regimental Depot of the 59th Scinde Rifles in Jullundur. On 16th May 1917, he was promoted to Lieutenant and the post of Officiating Depot Commander. One of the benefits of his position was accommodation in a bungalow with gardens, a tennis court and servants - they lived at 51 Bungalow, Jullundur.

A calling card used by Emily Harris in Jullundur

The dress sword and sheath of Captain Christopher Harris

Christopher Harris was appointed Depot Commander on 8th August 1919 and promoted to Captain on 16th May 1920. After serving eleven years in the Indian Army he and his family returned to England in 1920. His medals were the 1915 Star and the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal as well as the Queen's South Africa Medal. The reason for the family's return at this time are not clear, but 7-year-old Kenneth (as he was known) was registered at Ascham College Boarding School, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. For the 1939 Register, Christopher and Emily were living at 89 Old Tovil Road, Maidstone, Kent. Very soon after this Register was compiled, he died at home, on 4th November 1939.

Christopher Kenneth Locke Harris married Doris Winnifred Parks, in Maidstone in 1940, and he died in 1983. They had two daughters - Mary Harris in 1949 and Penelope Ann Harris in 1953. Mary Pamela Patricia Harris married Wilfred Edgar Spice, also in Maidstone in 1940. They had no children and she died in 2006.