After leaving school he went to work at Ingham's Coal Mine as a pit top worker and whilst still in his teens, elected to leave the security of a reserved occupation as a coal miner to join the Regular Army. He enlisted on 15 January 1941 at Leeds with the Royal Artillery, his service number was 1610004.
He spent the first two days of his army career at home, after which he was transferred on War Reserve and initial training for 27 days. On 13 February 1941 he was sent to southern England to be trained as an anti-aircraft gunner, where he stayed for 292 days, during which time he married Ruth Thornton on 15 August 1941. On 2 December 1941 he was sent via troop ship out to mid-Atlantic, clear of the threat of U-boats and round the southern tip of Africa to join the campaign on the Middle Eastern Front near Tripoli. The journey lasted some time and he recalled memories of playing cards to pass the time and when passing South Africa he had won enough money to by a fur coat, but by the time they landed, he had lost it all again.
He spent 200 days on the journey from England and in the middle east but that was to end on 20 June 1942 when he was taken prisoner by German troops and transported to Italy as a prisoner of war. He was in Italy for two years and six days, during which time he and a group of others managed to escape into the mountains.
Living in a cave, they managed to remain free and survived through two winters, by coming down into the villages and obtaining food from the Italian people who lived there and attending church every Sunday, Thank God for the mercy they showed. However, the second winter proved too severe to remain in the mountains and not wanting to bring reprisal upon the villagers that had helped them, they gave themselves up to the German soldiers.
From Italy, they were forced to march all the way into Germany, suffering greatly from malnutrition and footsores they were forced to eat potato peelings and other waste foods thrown away by their captors. Whilst on the march, Harry had to stop to tend to his badly swollen feet and had removed his boots. A young German soldier, barely more than 17 years of age, removed his rifle from his shoulder and struck Harry with the rifle butt across his feet insisting he put on his boots and walk. He remained a prisoner in Germany for a further 313 days until 3 May 1945 when they were freed by American troops. God Bless America !
In May 1945 he returned home a day earlier than expected and he found his wife Ruth hanging some home made bunting and welcome home banners from the windows of the house. He ended up hanging his own welcome home banner, but who cared, he was home safe.
He remained in the army until being discharged on 20 April 1948. The Military Conduct and Testimonial report on leaving the colours read:
Military Conduct - Exemplary
Testimonial - A conscientious, reliable man who is always ready and willing to give of his best. He is of a sober and cheerful disposition and is a good influence on those with whom he works.
On 21 April 1948 he was transferred into the army reserve completing 7 years and 98 Days in the Royal Artillery. The description of him at that time was Height 5ft. 4 3/4 inches, Complexion - clear, Eyes - blue, Hair - brown, Marks and scars - Scar on Dorsum right foot. (no doubt as a result of his treatment by the young German soldier.)
The decorations he received were, the Africa Star, 1939/45 Star and the War Medal 1939/45
He returned to being a coal miner and worked at several local pits including Ingham's, Combes, Shaw Cross and Park Colliery at Wakefield. He took early retirement and bought a static caravan which he used as a holiday home on the east coast of Yorkshire. He moved to a bungalow with his wife Ruth
His favourite car was, ironically a Volkswagen Beetle and he and Ruth enjoyed holidays in their son Harry and family's villa apartment in Andalucia in southern Spain.
Fact 1: 12 March, 1921, Born at 15 Thomas Street, Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury7
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