Phillip Laurence Harris was a journalist for his family’s newspaper The Hebrew Standard, published at George Street in The Rocks and contributed to other periodicals like The Bulletin and Lone Hand. He enlisted in October 1914 and was posted to an Ammunition Park at Avonmouth in England, and then later to France. His brother Charles, a printer, enlisted the following year.
Phillip quickly rose through the ranks to Sergeant and was sent to Officer Training in November 1916. He was one of the many diggers to be promoted to an officer, something that the British Army refused to do. They generally recruited their officers from a narrow social band while the Australian Imperial Force also promoted from the ranks, based on merit, rather than birth.
2nd Lieutenant Harris was sent to the Western Front and went straight into the attacks on the Hindenburg Line in April and May 1917.
In December 1917, with the support of Major-General Sir C. B. B. White, then Chief-of-Staff of the AIF, he began the trench magazine “Aussie”. It was to become the most widely read magazine on the Western Front. The content came right from the soldiers themselves.
It certainly wasn’t easy to produce the magazine in such difficult circumstances. He edited and printed the magazine just behind the front lines. The press was shelled and keeping up the supply of paper, ink and type was a tremendous challenge.
Phillip was determined to get the stories straight from the diggers. He was often in the trenches with the men during attacks:
"...the only way to get the dinkum stuff was by keeping closely in touch with the Digger up forward. The best yarns were told whilst awaiting the second phase of a hop-over, or in supports immediately after a stunt. If they were not caught then whilst they were on the wing, the best of them would be lost."
The brothers returned to Australia in 1919 and in 1920 Phillip restarted the magazine. Dubbed “Aussie, The Cheerful Monthly” it became a voice for the returned soldiers.