Captain J.P. (Jack) Harris, CD was born in Toronto on 25 July 1914. After attending school in Toronto, he began work for Kamm Garland, a stockbroker firm.
When the Second World War broke out, he joined The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada as a volunteer for overseas service, choosing the QOR because in the spring of 1940, it was more or less common knowledge in Toronto that they would form part of the 3rd Division, and so could be sure of their place in the overseas order of battle. He had no desire to be in uniform in Canada.
Harris began his “career” as a Rifleman, and served in the ranks when the Regiment was posted to the East Coast and then Newfoundland, guarding the seaplane base near Botwood. He was promoted to Sergeant at this time, and announced that fact to his future wife by sending back an American Lucky Strikes cigarette ad which featured 3 stripes. Then it was off to England.
He was chosen as an Officer Candidate in 1942, returning to Canada to undergo his officer training at the OCTU in Brockville, which he passed and received his commission in December 1942. The next day he got married in Toronto. (They had met at a dance at Balmy Beach Canoe club – she wouldn’t dance with RCAF types, not liking their “Brylcream Boys” image.) After a very short honeymoon, it was off to Borden for further training.
Harris left Canada for overseas again in March 1943 and rejoined the QOR as a Lieutenant that fall, eventually commanding a platoon of C Company on D-Day. For some reason he never understood, he did not suffer from sea-sickness on the passage over. He counted himself fortunate because of that, and never remembered feeling that he was personally under fire during the assault phase. Certainly, he told his son that he did not fire his sten gun in anger on 6 June. However he was caught by a mortar round later in the day, in orchards just outside of Bernieres-sur-Mer – seriously enough that he had to return to England. He lost his only souvenir – a wonderful pair of German field glasses – to a British officer while he was on the beach.
After recovering from his wounds, Harris returned to the Battalion in August, just in time to be wounded on his second day back, in the fighting around Quesnay Wood. He was leading his platoon through the wheatfields toward the woods when the German shelling and machine gunning became intense. Everyone went to ground, but then he decided it was his job to stand up, blow his whistle, and try to get the advance going again. In his words “I blew my whistle, and the stood much too close to a mortar bomb.”
This time his wounds were serious enough that he never did get back to the Battalion, but spent the rest of the war either recovering from his wounds or, from the Fall of 1944, employed in a training capacity in the Canadian Army reinforcement system in England.
After the war, Harris returned to Toronto and worked for the Public Trustee, the Veteran’s Land Administration, and Brazilian Traction (which became Brascan) before moving to Canadian Pittsburgh Piping (later Crane Piping, then Stanton Pipes) in Hamilton.
A son Steve was born in 1948, another son in 1954, and the family moved to Burlington in 1955. Harris stayed in the Militia with the QOR until that move.
When he left the Regiment, the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel John Mills wrote a letter which said among other things, that there was one thing he took for granted: “On regimental occasions, Harris would be there.” Harris kept that letter among his private papers as it was important to him that his dedication to the Regiment had been recognized by an officer he very much respected. Once in the Queen’s Own, Always in the Queen’s Own.
He died in Ottawa 25 October 1996 and his memorial service in Burlington was attended by Lieutenant Colonel Glen McIver, Major Norm Manchester, then Captain John Fotheringham, Art Gay, and Legion President Jim Kenn.
Based on an article prepared by son Steven Harris and published in the 1996 issue of The Rifleman magazine. Steven played routinely with The Queen’s Own Rifles Band from 1970-1974, then as available until 1979. He eventually become the Chief Historian and Acting Director of the Directorate of History and Heritage at the Department of National Defence.