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The Harrods Employees who went to War

More details unearthed using the expanding military collection on TheGenealogist


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From working at London's finest department store to making the ultimate sacrifice for their Country: TheGenealogist looks at the Harrods employees who fought and died in the Great War.

TheGenealogist has released over 650,000 records of other ranks who died in the Great War, taken from the War Office publication. The new records further enhance the already significant military collection available on TheGenealogist which includes Roll of Honour Records, unique Casualty Lists and Prisoner of War Records, Regimental Records and War Memorial Lists.

You can now see a large amount of detail for those who fought and fell in the line of duty. Records can include the full name, birth place, place or residence, place of enlistment, service number, regiment and rank along with the date, place and cause of death. In most cases there is also a link to the Commonwealth War Grave Commission site for more information.

Using a wide range of sources, many of them unique to TheGenealogist, the continually expanding pool of military records allows you the opportunity to discover more about your military ancestors.

The new ‘Soldiers who died in the Great War'  records published on TheGenealogist reveal soldiers from one of the world's most famous department stores, who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Established in 1824 by Charles Henry Harrod. The main store is currently situated where Charles set up a small shop in Brompton in 1849 to capitalise on the forthcoming Great Exhibition of 1851. Despite the setback of a fire in 1894, Harrods went from strength to strength. Clientele ranged from Oscar Wilde, Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Sigmund Freud and members of the British Royal Family.

By the outbreak of the First World War, Harrods had firmly established itself as one of the premium department stores in the world, competing with Selfridges. With a large workforce on the sales floors, packing and support departments, it was inevitable many of the young male workers would answer the call for volunteers or be conscripted into the armed forces by 1916.

Many of the Harrods workers subsequently joined the war effort and sadly many were not to return to their jobs.  147 Harrods employees made the supreme sacrifice and are now commemorated on the four War Memorial tablets on display in the Harrods store and which can now be viewed online in the unique War Memorials collection on TheGenealogist.

War Memorial tablet on display at Harrods

The marble tablets were started in 1917 and give the details of the soldiers with the Harrods department where they worked. The tablets were initially placed in the Harrods' Old Royal Exchange (Banking Hall) and after this area was demolished in the mid 1930s, the tablets were relocated to the staircase landing between the Ground and First Floors.

The new ‘Soldiers who died in the Great War' records published on TheGenealogist give us a great amount of detail about the brave ‘Harrodians' who gave their lives serving their country.

Many of the Harrodians who saw military service fought on the Western Front in France and Flanders. However, some were posted to more distant areas such as Harry Topliffe, who was an employee at Harrods when the war started. Harry was born in 1884 in Barnes, Surrey, he worked for Harrods as a delivery man.

Using the Military Records on TheGenealogist, we search for Harry in our new ‘Soldiers Who Died in the Great War' records. We find he sadly died in 1916 whilst serving as a Private with the Middlesex Regiment in the Persian Gulf.

Harry also appears in TheGenealogist's unique Casualty Records; showing he was both wounded and captured by the Turks in 1916. He was taken to hospital in Baghdad which was the Turkish headquarters in Mesopotamia.

The Casualty Records also indicate if a prisoner died in captivity as unfortunately happened with Harry Topliffe.

Harry Topliffe in the 'Soldiers Who Died in the Great War' records at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Harry Topliffe in the Casualty Lists at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Harry Topliffe in the Casualty Lists at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Harry was buried in the Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery that was used by the Turks to bury British Prisoners of War. He was also commemorated on the Harrods War Memorial in London which we find searching through our War Memorials collection on TheGenealogist. One click leads to the image of the actual war memorial featuring Harry Topliffe, who died aged 32.

Harry Topliffe in the War Memorials at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Arthur Brocks, another ‘Harrodian' worked in the Bedding Department and would have still have been a junior learning the retail trade when war intervened. Searching the Military Records on TheGenealogist and the new ‘Soldiers who Died in the Great War' collection, we find the details of Arthur listed.

Arthur Brocks in the 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Arras Memorial for British and Commonwealth forces

With one mouse click on TheGenealogist we are able to view where Arthur is commemorated, thanks to a unique link to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. We find him on The Arras Memorial, which bears the names of more than 35,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African and New Zealand forces who died in the Arras sector of the Pas-de-Calais between the Spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918 and have no known grave. The memorial commemorates the large Arras Offensive in 1917 of which Private Arthur Brocks of the 3rd City of London Battalion (Royal Fusiliers) was no doubt involved.

Using the unique online resource on TheGenealogist we can then search and find Arthur Brocks commemorated on the Harrods Memorial. One click takes us to an actual image of Arthur's name on the War Memorial itself.

Arthur Brocks in the War Memorials at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Arthur George Miles from Betchworth in Surrey was working in the Antiques Department at the Harrods store when he joined the army. Newly married to Maud, in the 1911 Census his occupation is furniture porter and they're living in Chelsea.

Arthur joined the Grenadier Guards as a Private or Guardsman in the 1st  Battalion. Our military records show him killed in action on the 27th September 1918, nearing the end of the war.

Arthur also appears in the Roll of Honour Index found on TheGenealogist.

Arthur Miles in the 1911 Census at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Arthur Miles in the 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' records at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Arthur Miles in the Roll of Honour records at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Sanders Keep Cemetary

Arthur is commemorated in the Sanders Keep Cemetery South West of Arras. Sanders Keep was a German fortification and was stormed by the Guards Division on the 27th September 1918 and after the fight, the dead (including Arthur Miles) were buried on this battlefield. One click from our ‘Soldiers who died in the Great War' record takes us to the images of the Sanders Keep Cemetery.

A search on the War Memorials records on TheGenealogist finds Arthur commemorated on the Harrods Memorial also, listed with both his regiment and the Harrods Department where he worked.

Due to the numbers of staff members killed in the Great War, in April 1917 the first memorial  plaque was designed and placed in the Harrods Banking Department area known as The Exchange. Here the ‘Memorial to Fallen Harrodians' in the Great War was unveiled in a solemn ceremony with speeches from the owner, Sir Richard Bainbridge and Chairman, Sir Alfred Newton.

Harrods advert in Sphere Magazine (May 1915), from the
Newspapers collection at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Such was the scale of casualties in the Great War that Harrods would have to produce a second war memorial for the extra employees who sadly would not survive the war. Sir Alfred Newton summed it up to The Harrodian Gazette in 1917: “The tablet that is exposed to you this evening is unfortunately, not the only momento that will be erected in this place because this ghastly war is summing up the victims day by day and we do not know when that great sacrifice is to come to an end.” The second tablet was added in October 1917.

The war memorial and rolls of honour are now wall mounted tablets located in the first floor half landing.

Despite the tragic loss of the many brave employees who gave their lives in the War, Harrods continued to trade and “business as usual” continued throughout the war. Here we see a typical advert found in the Sphere Magazine in 1915, found in the Newspaper collection on TheGenealogist promoting the fashions of the time.

The Soldiers Who Died in The Great War records are now available to view for all Diamond Subscribers.


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12 Month subcription to Discover Your Ancestors Online MagazineAlong with providing access to Census, BMDs, Non-Conformist Records, Wills and more, the Diamond subscription gives you access to record collections that make it easy to find so much more about your ancestors.

You'll also enjoy a free 12 month subscription to Discover Your Ancestors online magazine worth £24.95, saving you a total of £44.95!

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