Harry (christened Henry and sometimes answering to H) Gordon was born on 11th October 1922 in Bradford, Manchester and went to Grange Street School, Bradford and joined an Optimum Manufacturing company (Sidney Cowan & Company) on leaving school at 14. In April 1939, at the age of 16½ he joined the Territorial Army with a group of 6 friends but because 'we wanted to go somewhere' instead of being put ‘anywhere’ they transferred, later that year, as regular soldiers (the recruiting sergeant added an extra year to Harry’s age in his Army Pay book) in the Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment based in the Birmingham/Wolverhampton area (Bedworth). It is an interesting comment on the vagaries of war that Harry had been designated as being too young to go abroad, but was then sent abroard before the others!
In December 1940, Harry left England and did not see England again until 1945. He was sent to Gibraltar to await a convoy to go through the Mediterranean (escorting Illustrious class aircraft carriers) because aircraft carriers got a bashing and was sent initially to Piraeus, in Greece before landing in Malta in 1941. He was in Malta all through its siege until July 1943 when he joined up with the 8th Army for the invasion of Sicily, but in typical army fashion (we were not supposed to be there) was sent back to Malta.
The Normandy Campaign
Harry was in Malta during the time of the Normandy invasion and it is important to understand that the context of war meant that he was involved in his own military campaign. Reality for Harry meant air raids at any moment:
the longest of which lasted for three days, with eight of us sleeping on our feet, as you might say, and the cooks were instructed to bring our food round.
In Malta the gun pits were concrete with an area where you used to bring the guns in and out, but when the gun crew were under fire they actually slept there.
We heard about the Normandy invasion in fragments, mainly by radio (if we had one); more often we didn’t. If the lieutenants were changed we would get one reading out the details but sometimes when they got us together the air raids would start again and that was the end of that briefing.
Harry moved on from Malta to Naples and, following the end of hostilities in August 1945, returned to England for 6 weeks (accumulated) leave. Once back in the UK he had to find out where he lived, since his family home had been destroyed by a land mine, and they had been moved to a house in New Moston, Manchester. He then went to Normandy in September/October 1945 and moved through France, Belgium and Holland working in Army Stores and by the time of his demobilisation in May 1946 he was Bombardier (a non-commissioned officer) in charge of the stores at the demobilisation camp. It was during this period of his army service that Harry encountered 16 year old Nazi Youth prisoners-of-war, whom he observed were more radical, and arrogant, than the regular German soldiers, and he felt they needed to have an eye kept on them.
Harry returned to his old manufacturing company in 1946 and stayed there until 1950, when he made the economic decision to join the railway as a labourer – to treble his wage. He moved into the publishing department of a newspaper in 1960 and stayed there until his retirement in 1987 at the age of 65 years. Harry currently lives independently in a warden-controlled flat in Edgeley, Stockport.