HARRY GARRETT, GUNNER
Harry Garrett, 96, was a sergeant in the 51st Highland Division, in charge of a gun team – a dangerous job, he was blown to unconsciousness several times, and his best friend, Ebenezer Lee, killed beside him at the battle of Alamein. ‘Lucky Harry’ they called him, he says, remembering his many near misses.
Like the writer of ‘A Soldier – His Prayer’ he was evacuated from Dunkirk and also fought in the Western Desert, taking part in Alamein and the long push westwards to victory in Tunisia in 1943. Harry puts his survival, like the poet, down to his faith. He prayed constantly on the battlefield.
‘White Cliffs’ is another poem that means a lot to Harry, as it is a poignant reminder of his evacuation from Dunkirk. The path across the Channel was fraught with danger, as the harbour and the surrounding Channel were under constant attack. When the white cliffs came into view, the men on his packed ship broke down in relief, knowing they were now home and safe.
After the war, Harry worked as a millinery seller, travelling all around the country to the department stores of the day. He laments the demise of the hat as a vital fashion accessory, which he puts down to changing hairstyles.
Harry is also a bit of a local celebrity, having been nominated Local Legend of Sevenoaks, 2011.