- Contributed by
- People in story:
- A.H Harding
- Location of story:
- Veron banks of the Seine
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 16 November 2003
Sapper Harding is my late father who was mentioned in dispatches for the actions in this newspaper article which was amongst my late Mother's possessions.
"Sign-writing under enemy fire is not a practice to be recommended; it is apt to lead to inaccuracies both in lettering and spelling. That at least, was the experience of Sappers A.H. Harding of Camberley, Surrey and V. Coles of Maidstone both peace-time painters and decorators on the banks of the Seine prior to the assult crossing of the river by the 43rd (Wessex) Division.
With an Officer of their RE Company they went into Veron in advance of the assault troops, to prepare routes and parking places for over eighty heavy vehicles bringing the vital bridging equipment required for the first British assault across the Seine. For the construction of the bridge it was essential that the vehicles should park in a carefully-planned order, according to the type of equipment they carried. Route and parking place signs had to be erected well before the vehicles arrived in the town. And the Germans were strongly entrenched on the opposite bank, less than 300 yards away and overlooking the town!
There was a horrible quietness in the town. In twenty minutes the two sign writers completed twenty signs. "We were just slapping it on. It was the slipperiest bit of signwriting I've ever done" said Sapper Harding, "There wasn't time to make a good job of it."
Then the artillery barrage came down, and it was hell let loose.
Sign boards ran out before the job was complete. The solution was to rip down any piece of boarding available. And the signs "Tippers" here, "Floating Bay Units" there, were made on the spot, under machine-gun fire from the opposite bank.
The signs painted, they had to be erected. The Sappers between intervals of ducking and running, climbed lamp-posts, trees and walls, to fix the signs in the most prominent position, and the Royal Army Service Corps drivers of the heavy vehicles made no mistake."
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