OUR FEATURED MEMBER – HARRY GOSNELL
Thanks to Pat Graysmark for putting together this ‘life story’. Our subject this time is : Harry Gosnell
Harry was born in Walthamstow in the February of 1923. Being brought into the fold of a family as one of six children, as was the case with many families of that time in history, living in a small terraced house with little money, Harry had to sleep 5 in a bed top to tail. Having a tight knit family gave him a happy childhood as you can imagine with 12 Aunties and Uncles on his Father’s side, 11 on his Mother’s and Gran living at 19 Tenby Road, he was never far away at No. 2. Harry’s Father was one of the lucky ones in having employment and worked at Associated Equipment Company in Southall, which developed anything from car parts to lawn mowers, but mainly to do with lorries.
He remembers Christmas being a great time. Like a lot of people, the orange or apple in a stocking at the end of the bed was all you needed to make your Christmas, but the year he got a fort was a very special one.
Harry started school at 5 and from what he told us “he was a good boy”. School for Harry was an enjoyable time. He said there was a little bullying, but even at an early age he knew how to look after himself. Probably having 5 brothers makes you strong which he needed later in life. Harry left school at 14 and worked at Bluestone and Elvin’s as a French polisher. He was taught by experts.
He had a bad time with his Mother leaving home when he was 10. After that the family moved in with Gran at No. 19 Tenby Road, spending the next six years there. His Uncle did tell him later in life that his Mum would come to watch him from the end of the street or at play in the school playground. He has not seen her since the day she left.
Being young, fit and athletic Harry was a keen footballer, also drifting in an out of playing cricket, but football was his passion. Attending a Catholic School did not help his youth football because inter school football was not played there. I got the feeling he was quite capable of playing at that level
Like all men and women who fought in the Second World War, we can only thank them for their bravery that gave us freedom. Harry being one of those brave soles. He joined the army in 1939 at age 16 lying about his age saying he was 18. He did this because all the young people at JB & Sons where he was working were conscripted and he thought it would be a good idea and he volunteered. He went to Whipscross Hospital for his medical then was able to enlist. He joined Queen’s Own Royal West Kent’s Infantry and spent 2 years in this regiment. Two years later at the right age for joining the army of 18, they were asking for volunteers to join Airborne Palestine Police or Commandos. Harry signed up for Commandos and was accepted. That was 1941. He spent the rest of the war with this unit very rarely coming home for any length of time. He spent time behind enemy lines, went abroad – to North Africa, invaded Sicily, then Italy and so on. He was brought back to England for the big push on D-Day landing at Juno Beach outside Ouistram. After D-Day he came back to Worthing and then out to Europe to fight. Whilst in the army, one of his station points was Sherborne, Dorset. When he lodged in Civvy billets with landlady Doris he met his lovely wife Iris who was Doris’s friend. Harry and Iris married in a small village church in Henstridge, Somerset in 1944. Harry not having a birth certificate had to obtain a special marriage license which cost 7/6 (37.5p). They honeymooned in Worthing where he was stationed. He has been married to Iris for 63 years. Harry I think she has done a great job looking after you! Harry finished the war as Lance Sergeant in Commandos.
When Harry was demobbed in 1946, he found it very hard to settle and suffered from shell shock and nightmares like most people who came out of the armed forces when the war was eventually over. He was on edge a lot of the time and when a plane flew over the house, he woke with a start and said he would have shot someone. He also suffered from Malaria for 3 – 4 years after the war (as a result of suffering 3 bouts during the war). When he came out of the army he worked in a factory as a cellulose sprayer and then returned to French polishing but he found it hard to settle in one job and the country being in recession it was difficult to find permanent work. He asked his friend who was a Wing Commander in RAF for his help. His friend put him in touch with the Duke of Norfolk where Harry went for an interview and managed to get a job in forestry on the Estate (which is in Arundel). His tasks included fencing and anything else that needed doing. During the shooting season the Duke of Norfolk insisted that all staff were involved so during this time he was also a beater. He worked for the Norfolk Estate until he retired in 1988.
After the war he started playing football again. Some of his good years were in the West Country playing for a village side called Anstridge where at the age of 25 he scored 29 goals in one season, from the position of left winger.
Harry joined Arundel Bowling Club in 1960’s on invitation from John Westbrook and his wife Connie. As you can see Harry has been bowling for almost 40 years. Harry retired from bowling last year from Arundel and also West Sussex Tourist but is still a permanent fixture on our tour.
Harry and Iris, West Sussex Bowls Touring Club would like to thank you for this insite into your lives and wish you all the best.