Remembering Percy Haggis, the first RICS casualty of World War One

Cathy Linacre

Head of Reference Service (RICS)

Percy Haggis was the first member of the Surveyors' Institution to be killed in World War One. He died on 10 October 1914 at Moerbeke. The transactions note that he was a prisoner of war who was shot while trying to escape. He was 24 years old.

royal_navy_division_monument

Before the war Percy had worked for the London County Council in the architecture department and was a professional associate of the Institution. The 1911 census found him living at home with his parents, Henry and Arabella, and his younger brother Ernest in Esher, Surrey. He was listed as a 'minor clerk'. His younger brother also worked for the London County Council and his father was a civil servant at the Admiralty.

In the Surveyors' Institution Transactions roll of honour he is listed as a Leading Seaman in the Collingwood Royal Naval Division (RND). The RND was formed early on in the war when it was seen that there was a large surplus of mobilised manpower in the Navy. These men formed a light infantry regiment which was sent to Belgium and took part in the Siege of Antwerp.

Following the defeat at Antwerp a number of the divisions retreated towards neutral Holland. however en route they were surrounded by the Germans and surrendered. The RND Casualties of The Great War records on the Ancestry website include a section from the diary of William Reid who was a fellow prisoner of war records.

After searching & counting us, we were marched to a church at a place called Eairs (from Moerbeke). Whilst on the march six men had the misfortune to be shot through one trying to escape.

It is believed that Percy was one of these men as he was listed as missing at about this time. He is believed to be buried in the Eksaarde (Exaerde) Communal Cemetery where a special memorial marks the grave of five unknown British Soldiers and one unknown Belgian killed in this incident.  

The memorial for the Royal Naval Division (pictured) is a short distance from RICS HQ on Horse Guards’ Parade.

Many thanks to those members who have contacted me following my first commentary. I have had some fascinating emails and conversations and I hope to include the stories you have told me in future pieces. I am always happy to hear from more of you and you can email me at clinacre@rics.org.

The annual ICE/RICS Remembrance Service will be held on Friday 7 November at 13:00 in St Margaret’s Westminster. If you are in the area. all members are welcome to attend the service and refreshments afterwards at ICE.

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