The schoolboy rugby star who died - and a double family tragedy


Private George Harben wearing his Wales schoolboy rugby cap

George Harben is pictured here proudly wearing his Wales schoolboy rugby cap in the yard of the old Court Road School. Within six years he was dead, killed in France while serving with the South Staffordshire Regiment. He was one of 200 old boys from the school estimated to have served in the Great War.

Pte George Harben was born at 98 Clare Road in Grangetown in 1895. He lived with his father Sidney, a joiner, and mother Mary. As a schoolboy rugby international, he played for Wales against England at Leicester in 1908. His schoolboy cap was passed down the family and is now in the safe keeping of his great, great nephew.

George, who had worked as a messenger boy after leaving school, was killed at Ypres on 27th August 1915, aged 20. The battalion he was with had only arrived a month before. He is buried in Flanders in a section of a cemetery with 28 comrades from his regiment.

Pte Harben's name appears twice on the Grangetown memorial, once mistakenly against the Welsh Regiment.

But his family suffered a double loss in the War, and one not recorded on the memorial or anywhere else. He had an elder brother Sidney - named after his father and four years George's senior - who served in the Royal Navy on the Q boats. The family story is that Sidney sadly disappeared on shore leave in Ireland at Queenstown at the height of the troubles, was posted as a deserter and nothing was ever heard of him again. A shipmate told the family he may have been carrying a large amount of money on shore and that he was murdered, but there is no proof and his fate is a mystery.

Thanks to his nephew Pat Good

 

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