Veteran Stories:
Brian Harley

Army

  • Mr. Brian Harley in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador on August 11, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"With my fellow medical students, I served in the base hospitals for a month or two when the Normandy invasion started."

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I was 17 when I was allowed to join the [British] Home Guard, which had been formed to replace the LDV, Local Defence Volunteers. I was already at school in the OTC, the Officers' Training Corps, where we learned some military skills. So when I joined the Home Guard, it wasn’t really learning these skills as much as keeping ourselves as fit as possible. We already knew how to fire rifles and things and use a compass and these skills from the OTC training. After I left school, I was admitted to medical school in London and this medical school was still in the city area. I did not join the medical school Home Guard, but I was living, as I say, outside London and I joined the local Home Guard in Radley, in [Berkshire]. Other time, though, I did spend fire watching and staying in the hospital at night, for that purpose. Home Guard was more detailed. Many of the guardsmen were [First World War] veterans in their 40s and 50s and I was only one of two in my teens. So we had to do some of the hard work, which involved learning about the local area, finding places which would be good cover; knowing where the main roads were; learning about weapons, hand grenades, rifles and later on, what were Sten guns, S-T-E-N guns, which was an automatic weapon. I continued in the Home Guard until it was disbanded. And I’m not sure when that was. I think it was in 1943 or it could have been 1944 when the Normandy invasion started [the Home Guard was disbanded on December 3, 1944]. With my fellow medical students, I served in the base hospitals for a month or two when the Normandy invasion started. This was a very interesting experience and I became quite proficient in anesthesiology. It was delightful talking to these young men, even those severely burned in the burns unit. They were happy to be alive.
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