1939 Harry Verlander R.I.P.
In 1938 I won a fishing rod, which I still possess, in a Roller Skating race on the playground tarmac. In December of that year, on my 13th birthday, I inherited my father’s fixed wheel racing cycle. They became my two prize possessions. The 1939 summer holidays ended with being evacuated to Beccles in Suffolk with my younger sister Lily May, then still at the junior school in Chadwell Heath.
On returning home at Christmas 1939 the school was closed and, at the age of fourteen, I had to start work in the New Year at a light engineering factory. I joined the Home Guard in 1941 and in 1942 joined the Army. In 1943 I volunteered for the SOE and was dropped into France in 1944.
From the BBC Website 5th June 2009
Allied ‘bandits’ behind enemy lines by Robert Hall
In the windswept sand dunes of Normandy, there are many reminders of the liberating forces, but the missions of one unit are far more difficult to trace. It was a unit backed by the Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower, but recruited and trained in total secrecy. Its teams were codenamed Jedburgh and each comprised three men from Britain, France and the United States. Their mission was to parachute behind enemy lines, link up with local resistance groups and do all they could to prevent German reinforcements reaching Normandy.
Harry Verlander was a radio operator with Team Harold. He says: ‘I suppose we were terrorists in a way. It depended which side you were on. I was one of the angry young men of the day, just worried that the war would be over before I could get involved.’
Once in France, the Jedburghs began their task of disrupting transport and communications. Some blew up railway lines and bridges, others sabotaged German vehicles and telephone links. There were many close shaves and near misses. Harry Verlander remembers German troops surrounding the wood in which he was hiding. He says: ‘I climbed a tree to avoid them. There were soldiers with dogs, but we had learnt to evade them by urinating around the foot of the tree to throw them off the scent. In this case the troops gave up before they found us.’
Mission commanders expected the Jedburghs to last just a few weeks, but fortunately for today’s generation enough of them have survived to share their adventures.
From The Shoreham Aircraft Museum Website
2nd May 2010
Signing up to the Army in 1942 even though he was underage, Harry volunteered for the Special Forces and went on to serve behind enemy lines in Occupied France alongside the French Resistance and also in the jungles of Burma in bloody and terrifying hand-to-hand combat. Having previously not been allowed to talk of his wartime experiences, Harry’s remarkable and brave story as a member of the Special Operations Executive is one deserving to be known by a wide audience.
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