My father's war experiences

My father, Robert Harding (2.2.1919-11.2.2010) was born in the state of Montana, USA, but lived most of his life in England.

Bob was a London policeman at the outbreak of war in September 1939 but later was trained as a World War II pilot with the Royal Air Force. Here is a photograph of him, dating from March 1942.

After some adventures, he ended up in Egypt but then a flying mission went wrong.

This accident led to my father becoming prisoner of war in Africa, Italy and Germany. He suffered a lot but survived. After the war he became a primary school head-teacher.

In 1999 he wrote a book entitled Copper Wire about his war experiences and it was published privately in a small quantity.

Following Bob's death, several copies of this much-sought-after item were found among his effects and these are now being put on sale on eBay. When these are sold, there will not be any more.

A fully revised and enlarged new edition (182 pages), including many new illustrations, was professionally published by Chess Mail Ltd in 2002, but no spare copies are available. A small ring-bound reprint was done later but is also sold out.

The main difference between the editions is the inclusion in the 2002 edition of two appendices about soldiers who were prominent in the Stalag IVB camp. The text about my father is essentially the same in both.

Copper Wire is an amazing story of survival against the odds. It includes the stories of many of the unsung heroes who shared captivity with my father in the dark years of WW2, with a lot of detail about life in the famous German camp Stalag IVB.

You can read more about it here. Here is a review and a book extract.

Due to a faulty propeller, his plane crash-landed in the Libyan desert and the crew were lucky to survive. Yet worse was to come when they had to endure inhuman treatment at the hands of the enemy. Many died.

Eventually my father was moved to a camp in Germany where, as one of the senior British officers, he had a very good overview of life in the camp. Finally the camp was taken over by the Russians in May 1945 and a few weeks later my father finally got home.

Tim Harding, 19 September 2012.

 

My father, Robert Harding, soon after he got back to England in the summer of 1945.

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Picture of Bob with aircrew pals in 1942