James (Jim) C Harding

At the age of fifteen, and while still at school, Jim put his age up to sixteen and joined the Civil Defence (ARP) as a part-time messenger, the duties of which included taking messages from various Civil Defence posts during air-raids (should the telephone systems break down). He took his St. John's First Aid certificate and was stationed, part time, at the wartime ambulance depot at Heston Middlesex.   During air raids he went as an ambulance attendant either to render first aid or take casualties to Hounslow hospital. This of course was while he was still studying. On leaving school, Jim took a job as a clerk with the Great Western Railway Company at an office in Paddington, which was responsible for the allocation of rolling stock around the Great Western System. Most of this was for war material.

At this time his father was a part-time air raid warden, his mother was in the Women's Volunteer Service, and his brother was in the Royal Armoured Corps. Also during this period his father's and his grand- father's pharmacies in Ealing were badly damaged by bombs, as was his home.

Jim Harding 01
Jim Harding 02

In late 1944 Jim received his call-up papers, and on January 4th 1945 he was posted to Glasgow and later to Longmoor in Hampshire where he trained with the Royal Engineers on Movements. On VE Day he was at Plymouth and within weeks was on an American troop ship bound for the Middle East where he and his colleagues relieved the 8th Army chaps to come home. He served the rest of 1945 and 1946 in Egypt, and then was posted to Palestine for all 1947 and the first quarter 1948.  Although only a full corporal, here he was given the job of being in charge of a small detachment of men posted to the Railway Station in Jerusalem (partly blown up just before he arrived!) and responsible for all movements of personnel and equipment in and out of the city. This eventually became impossible by rail due to regular bombings of trains, so all troop movements had to be by road convoy with heavily armed escorts. Freight only went by rail, though that also was frequently blown up.

Jim Harding 03
Jim Harding 04

In late 1947 it was announced that the United Nations were going to take over responsibility for the Palestine situation, and Jim was posted to be in charge of another small detachment, this time at the railway station at Raffa on the Palestine/ Egyptian border. Here the British army were dumping as much of their equipment as possible, and Jim's detachment was responsible for accepting the railway consignments and making sure they were deposited at the correct depot in the desert.

In the Spring of 1948, the UN took over and Jim was posted home via Port Said. Unfortunately he caught Jaundice and came home in the troopship hospital and on arrival at Liverpool was taken to Chester Military Hospital. Eventually he returned home and was finally demobbed from the army on the 11 May 1948. Sadly, while Jim was away, his brother Philip had been killed in action.

Compiled by Susan Moores - May 2015

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