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Harry's Nine Lives - WARTIME MEMORIES

Harry Max Goldstein, aged 86 (November 2005)

Harry on the right with his brother Louis, 1941
Harry on the right with his brother Louis, 1941

During the Second World War I was in the army for 5 years 3 months, from October 1940. I did not enlist at the beginning of the war as I was a self employed Builders' Merchant and so was given a year to make the necessary arrangements for the business before being 'called-up'.

I started out as Rifleman 6852725 attached to the Kings Royal Rifles, later becoming an acting Lance Corporal. I was stationed just outside Winchester in Hampshire. At one point when the camp was bombed I was faced with dead fellow soldiers surrounding me - one of several times when I narrowly escaped death myself.

I remember one day when a notice went up in the barracks in Chiseldon, just outside Salisbury, asking for anyone who could ride a motorbike. Myself and another soldier, Nobby Clark, volunteered our services though neither of us had any experiences of motorbikes; we thought there might be something more interesting for us to do and indeed this was the case.

Having virtually taught ourselves the ins and outs of the motorbike and doffed our crash helmets and khaki canvas rucksacks, we became despatch riders. At this point we were stationed at Bulford in Wiltshire. We would report to a military office each day where we were given a route for the day where we were to deliver our precious dispatches, many labelled 'Top Secret'. One of the destinations was Wilton House, where I understand in recent years coincidentally a despatch rider's bike has been on show.

I was then transferred to my hometown of Woolwich in South East London, where, having served as an infantryman, I then became a gunner in the Royal Artillery, stationed in the Academy building. I became very familiar with that building as, officially being known as a glazier, I was more than once given the task of replacing the glass panes in the windows of the Academy when they were blown out during bombing raids. Naturally, this area suffered greatly during the blitz, as down the road was the famous Woolwich Arsenal, a prime target for the enemy.

Another occasion when I nearly lost my life was when I was on my bicycle going from my shop on Plumstead Common to my barracks. A bomb fell, almost turning over a tram, and I was tossed off my bicycle - I really felt I lived the proverbial 'nine lives' during the war!


WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar'

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