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  • Claire Jordan

Harvey's Big Smile

Meet 18 year old Canadian Harvey Willis of Huron County, Ontario, and his big smile.

After the War, his local paper published a book entitled ‘War Memorial of Huron County’s Heroes and Heroines’ in which this marvellous picture is accompanied by the following:

“Private Harvey F Willis was a member of the Medical Corps and although he was warned that he was not fit to go to the front, so determined was he to do his bit that he underwent an operation in order to pass.

He had only been in England three months when he died in Moore Barracks Hospital from pleurisy.

While he did not reach the battlefront, Pte Willis did his best to do so and he assuredly has done his bit.”

By the time he enlisted, he already had a considerable appendicitis scar which perhaps speaks to something of an emergent situation when he was younger but the operation I think mentioned here was to fix a hernia.

It seems at some point shortly before he died on 26th September 1917, he had also sustained a traumatic brain injury because as well as the pleurisy, by the time he died, he had lost the use of one half of his body.

Whatever took him, it was an awful lot for one so young to endure.

Winnie and William Willis, made sure that no one who passes their boy's #CWGC headstone at Shorncliffe above Folkestone is in any doubt about how proud they all are of him.

They made his epitaph: “Our Loved One Gave His Life That We Might Live, Father, Mother, Brothers.”

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