Harry Cowling NEIASS  (1886 - 1917)

Researched by Keith Parsons

Harry Cowling Neiass was born on 29th January 1886 at Teignmouth, Devon.

His father Edwin a Torquay man was married to Ellen Gilley from Teignmouth and was a sailor seemingly to be often away at sea. He appears to have drowned off of Hayle, Cornwall when "The Lizzie" is supposed to have been lost with all hands according to the Royal Cornwall Gazette of 25th February 1892, the crew list showing an Edwin Neiass age 46 from Shaldon.

Harry and two of his brothers had already all followed their father's footsteps, one brother Willam receiving the DSM for operations in Gallipoli died of disease before the end of World War 1, the widow Ellen losing two sons.

Harry's connection with Crediton came through his marriage to Edith Balson from Sandford who he married on 31st July 1915 at Holy Cross, Crediton. A report of his wedding was in the The Western Times on Monday August 15th 1915:-

"A pretty wedding took place at Crediton Parish Church on Saturday, the contracting parties being Miss Edith Balson, eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs W Balson, of Yule Villa, Crediton and Chief Petty Officer Neiass, of HMS Defiance. The bride who was given away by her father (Mr W Balson), was attired in a dress of white voile, with a chiffon veil and black picture hat trimmed with pink roses. She carried a handsome shower bouquet of carnations, the gift of the bridegroom. The bridesmaids were Mrs Winnie and Florrie Balson (sisters of the bride), who wore white sailor dresses with hats to match and carried bouquets of pink roses. Mr Tom Neiass brother of the bridegroom acted as "best man." The vicar (Reverend W M Dorien Smith) officiated. The bridegroom's present to the bride was a gold brooch, set with pearls and to the bridesmaids Prayer-books with silver covers.The reception was held at the brides' parents' house Yule Villa. There were a large number of useful and costly presents. 

Harry first joined the Royal Navy as a "Boy as rated" age 14 a month before his 15th birthday, his first posting being HMS Impregnable. He was only 5'3" at the time of enlisting but grew to 5'7". He was described as an errand boy with auburn hair, hazel eyes and a fair complexion. In September 1902 he became a "Boy 1st Class" (see "Boy as rated") signing on as an ordinary seaman for twelve years on his eighteenth birthday. He was to serve on a great number of ships and training bases during his career including HMS Blake, HMS Cambridge, HMS Sapphire rising to the rank of Leading Seaman in July 1910 whilst serving on HMS Redbreast,

In March 1911 he was "passed educationally for Petty Officer" and granted his educational certificate the following month. He then served as a PO(MS) on HMS Warrior for nearly two years. His last posting was to HMS Highflyer where took part at the battle of Río de Oro when the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was sunk. He was subsequently transferred to the Warrior, although this is not shown on his service record. He then met with an accident which resulted in his discharge from the Navy in July 1917. He died in the December at The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in Exeter as reported in The Western Times on Tuesday18th December 1917.


  • Crediton War Memorial, Panel 5, North Facing: H C Neiass
  • 1901 census RG13 Piece 2048 Folio 52 Page 1 Registration District Newton Abbot (Find my Past)
  • 1911 census RG14 Piece 34971 Reference RG14PN34971 RD640 SD2 ED10 SN9999 (Find my Past)
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission casualty Details for Service Number 218280
  • Ancestry
  • Free BMD
  • National Archives Naval record ADM/188/383 Image ref: 1059
  • Crediton Parish Church Register
  • Wikipedia