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Gerald Harris

Gerald Isadore Harris

Born on the 12th March 1918, he attended Glasgow Academy. He played rugby for one of the academy’s XV. In his reference, the rector, F. Roydon Richards wrote “he is a person of considerable intelligence,…he seemed rather mature compared to his class fellows, his mind was set upon the things of the future.”

He left school when he was 18, and took up employment with ‘Ger-Ralds Gentsware Ltd’ as a supervisor and salesman in their cap department. A job he left in February 1937.He had also worked for Burns & Fulton of Giffnock as an apprentice mechanic. He left here at the outbreak of war to join the Mercantile Marine.

He had acquired his first yacht when he was 18 and built up a knowledge of the North East coast of Ireland and the South West coast of Scotland and had learned coastal navigation.

Gerald applied for a commission in the R.N.V.R. (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) however, a captain from the Clyde Division in Govan wrote to him on 29th May ’39 to advise him that the number of applicants had outnumbered the actual vacancies. He suggested Gerald apply to some other unit.

12 weeks later, he wrote to the Lords of the Royal Admiralty in Whitehall to seek a wartime commission in H.M. Navy.

In October 1939 he was booked as a junior engineer on the M.V. Dunkeld, a 7,000 ton motorship.

On the 2nd of novemeber, he was advised that the Dunkeld would arrive at Newport, Mon. on the 6th/7th November and that he should “hold himself in readiness to proceed at a moments notice.”

By the 29th of January 1940, he was collecting the engineers laundry in SFAX (Tunisie). He had left with a reference by the 1st August 1940, Robert G. Gilfillan of the Lomond Shipping Company (Birkenhead) wishing him “best of luck and good hunting”.

Gerald received a letter from the Admiralty on the 5th August, containing the conditions for granting temporary commissions, this letter was defaced by a french sailor acquaintance of Geralds.

On the 21st November 1940 he wrote to the Ministry of Aircraft production, in Glassford Street regarding lenses, goggles and searchlights. This letter was passed to the Air Ministry. A reply on the 10th January 1941 showed Gerald had ideas about polarised light and bombs filled with liquid air. Polarised light had been realised and the Ministry did not think liquid air filled bombs were practical. Just one week later he wrote to the Ministry of Aircraft production with a sketch of a ‘signpost bomb’ a radio transmitter and firework bomb which would enable night bombers find their target with greater accuracy.

By this time, Gerald was studying for the Fleet Air Arm.

On the 7th February 1941, the Ministry of Aircraft Production (Millbank, S.W.1) wrote to Gerald to say that a) the principle of a signpost bomb was not new and b) that the bomb would not survive the impact.

By the 13th February 1941, he was advised of a possible vacancy in the Greenock Section of the Clyde River Patrol (C.R.P.) and his details were passed to the Greenock Section leader, Mr Simpson. The following day he was invited for a trial with “E” crew in the Greenock Section.

On the 13th May 1941 the recruiting staff officer of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines wrote to inform Gerald that that he had been accepted as a Naval Airman for pilot or observer duties in the Fleet Air Arm, and would be transferred to the unpaid Naval reserve. He was to enrol at 10.00am on the 15th may 1941.

From the 13th July to the 7th of September 1941, he was on a training ship, leaving with a test score of 694 out of a possible 880. Examiners opinion that he was a quiet type but efficient worker. Between then and October 1942 he made acting Petty Officer Airman, and on the 11th of October was appointed to Temporary Sub Lieutenant (A) RNVR with seniority to H.M.S. Merlin at Ferrypool.

On the 27th January, 1942 he applied for a Limited Entry certificate to allow him to visit Tupper Lake in New York State for three days, on or about February the 9th.

On Christmas eve, 1942, he applied for training as an A.B.R. Pilot, having previously completed the fighter course at Yeovilton. Gerald felt he did not have the necessary dash to be a successful fighter pilot. By May 1943, the flying Office, Royal navy Air Section were requesting that ammunition ‘for a fulmar’ be made available to combat stuka type aircraft and fighter bomber attacks, this request was backed up by the Officer Commanding, Christchurch and passed to the Commodore at Lee-on-Solent.

In July 1944, Lt. G. Harris, stationed at Christchurch was invited to the Admiralty to discuss “power supplies for mobile radar workshops”. Early in 1945, Gerald accepted a C.W. appointment (no. 519) to Australia, he transferred the funds from his Barclays Bank in Christchurch to the British Linen Bank (Renfield Street Branch) in his native Glasgow. At the same time, he enrolled as a member of the Glasgow Academic Club.

On the 1st of February 1945 he was appointed to HMS Golden Hynd (P) for 724 Squadron and sent to Australia. In addition to his normal blue uniform, he was advised to take white tropical dress, number 10’s, khaki shorts and bush shirts (working rig) and khaki long trousers (anti-malarial). He was further advised about inoculation and railway warrants to the port of embarkation.

My records get a bit patchy here, but I know that Gerald left the forces in 1946 and returned to Glasgow, using an address in Buchanan Street. He wrote to the Royal Motor yacht Club of New South Wales (which he was granted honorary membership of) thanking the members for their hospitality to visitors from Her Majesty’s Forces, a letter that was well received and that also welcomed future contact, should members of the club ever visit Britain.

In December 1945 he wrote to the University College of North Wales enquiring about methods of improving moorland. In June 1946 he enrolled as a member of the Ayrshire Cattle Herd Book Society for an annual subscription of £1.10. By this time he was a student at Cairn Farm, New Cumnock, Ayrshire. At the same time, he had been accepted as a member of the Chesterfield Officers’ Residential Club, in Mayfair, London. It is at this time that my paper trail runs out, I have listed in a separate file, what papers I have pertaining to this adventurous young man from the South side of Glasgow, my wish, now that I have told his story, is that these documents can be passed to an organisation that will maybe display them, but certainly treasure them, reminding future generations that without people like Gerald, who was not only involved in fighting, but continually thinking about how to improve his country’s defences, our land would have been completely different to the country we know and love today.

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