Lawren Stewart Harris was born on October 23, 1885 at 150 Brant Avenue in Brantford, Ontario. Harris is best known as a founding member of the famous Canadian art movement known as the Group of Seven.
Little-known though, is that both Lawren and his younger brother, Howard Kilbourne Harris (also born in Brantford in 1887), enlisted during the Great War. Additionally, through their family connections with the Massey-Harris Company, they were benefactors of the Massey-Harris Convalescent Home for wounded soldiers in Dulwich, England.
In the spring of 1915, Lawren Harris’ brother Howard enlisted as a lieutenant in the British Expeditionary Force and served with the 3rd Battalion, Essex Regiment. His courage and bravery at the front was formally recognized in 1917 when he was awarded the Military Cross for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during a raid on a German trench. Because of this action, he was promoted in the field to the rank of Captain.
In April 1916, Lawren enlisted as a private in the Officers Training Corps at the University of Toronto and the following month he qualified for the rank of lieutenant in the infantry of active militia. Several weeks later he was deemed medically unfit for overseas service. Acting as a supernumerary officer, Harris served as a musketry officer with the 10th Royal Grenadiers Regiment at Camp Borden and later at Hart House at the University of Toronto.
On February 22, 1918 Captain Howard Harris was killed in action while inspecting a German post and the impact of his brother’s death took its toll on Lawren. Lawren suffered a nervous breakdown and subsequently was released from the army in May, 1918.
As a tribute to the memory of Howard Harris, the 4th bell of the Soldiers’ Tower at the University of Toronto is named after him.