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15 October 2014
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by newcastlecsv

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People in story: 
Major Harry Barras Taylor (79), Lt. Harry Ure, Corp. Harry Stokoe, Capt. Babbington, Sgt. McNally, Cpl. Les Jordan, Capt. Brannen, L/Cpl. George Campbell.
Location of story: 
Wallsend on Tyne
Background to story: 
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Contributed on: 
23 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Clive Bishop of the CSV Action Desk, BBC Radio Newcastle on behalf of Harry Barras Taylor and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was 14 years old on 7th December 1939 when I went into the Naval Yard as an apprentice plumber. I came out of a big family of servicemen, five uncles, all in the Northumberland 6th Batt. Fusiliers; later became the 43rd Batt. Tank Regiment. They were stationed at the Drill Hall in Walker, Newcastle. My father was also in the tank regiment but being a plumber he was class “A” exemption as he was needed for the shipyards. I had one uncle in the Border Regiment, one cousin in the Chindits 49th Regiment and two cousins in the Navy.

At the age of 16 yrs and 7 months I joined the home guard, passed all my tests for my proficiency badge, which was a red diamond with red stripe below, sewn onto your right sleeve. We did manoeuvres in the Walker or Wallsend areas of Newcastle, range firing at Ponteland and St.Marys Island, Whitley Bay. The Island is now a bird sanctuary although the Butts are still there near to the causeway.

We had a shooting team which was Northumberland. There was a county shooting competition between the four counties, we won. Les Jordan, a welder at the Naval Yard, had the highest score of the weekend. We got a Polo lighter each and £2.00. The shield, I believe, went to the Drill Hall at Wallsend.

The comradeship was excellent among the men because most worked between the ship yards on the Tyne so they were conversant with each other at work or serious training.
We did serious training too; one weekend we were guarding the river to see if any enemy could get across the Tyne and make their way up the Gateshead side to blow up the bridges. We were up against the Cameronian Regiment, and the Black Watch. This took the full weekend up. We got camped down in a wood yard on the coast road, I was so tired I slept on a pile of logs. This was all voluntary as we got no pay for what we did, and had to go to work on the Monday morning.

We did training two nights a week, this entailed map reading, stripping arms down in the ante room with lights on then putting it together in the dark. We would then parade in the drill hall and be given the opportunity to see who could give orders to the platoon, this gave the chance of promotion.

When the Home Guard was stood down at the end of the war we paraded round Wallsend finishing our march at the order of “ Stand down the 8th Battalion “D” company”, which I was a member of,and changed the guard at Wallsend Town Hall for the last time. This to me was a very sad moment as I was one of the few chosen to be on the change Guard of Honour.
There was a great ovation from the people who had come to see this event, which was very emotional. It brought a tear to the eye as this would be the last time together as a team of volunteers who had worked hard to train for the defence of our country.
After stand down we handed all our uniform and equipment in at the drill hall. I wish that I had not as I would have been proud to wear it on occasions such as November 11th at our local cenotaph

I was very disappointed to find out after all my free time given in good faith that I was not entitled to a Defence Medal because the war finished before I had fulfilled the time allocated for a medal. I have written several letters to the Ministry, and to Tony Blair. I am now coming up to eighty years of age but still have a photograph of my comrades who I often think about. If the Ministry of Defence don’t think I am worth a medal — Good Luck, I tried my best.

Some of the hilarious moments:
® Sarg. would come in and ask if anyone liked music — unfortunate for you if you put your hand up, because you had to shift the piano into the church hall so we could bed down to sleep
® Would you like your dinner again, any response and you were directed to the kitchen to peel the potatoes for the cook.
Happy times among moments of stress, but we won the battle that we did not want and got rid of two dictators, Hitler and Mussolini. After the war I made friends with a German prisoner of war who married a local girl (he died a few years ago). He felt the same way as I did about war. He stayed back as a hairdresser, he was called Rudi Sieber.

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