70 Years Later, Fred Harris Finally Has a Pint with the Men He Saved

Fred left enjoys a pint with Sir Hugh
Fred Harris (left) enjoys a pint with Sir Hugh

70 years has gone by but a World War II hero soldier is finally treated to a pint that he was promised when he saved an officer’s life. Fred Harris fearlessly lifted a wounded battlefield commander, Sir Hugh Beach, into an armored car in the midst of a machine gun fight. Sir Hugh Beach, who would later be knighted by the Queen, was on a tour in the battle-field when he realized that Michael Harris, another tour mate, was the son of the man who had saved his life.

The two men had quite an emotional reunion took place at the Victory Services Club near London’s Marble Arch.  It was there that Mr. Harris joked that the highly decorated comrade could show his thanks by simply buying him a beer.  He said, “I told him he was a lucky beggar but I am pleased he made it.”

In 1944, a pint of beer cost 6p; but the price for the beer has gone up considerably. Sir Hugh was happy to purchase the beverage. Mr. Harris stated, “I said to him, it was a shame I didn’t know what he had achieved since our last meeting because I could have dined out on the story. “I said, ‘I had to call you Sir back then and I still do, now by the looks of it’. But he told me to call him Hugh. It was emotional for both of us.” Sir Hugh was a lieutenant at the time he was severely injured during a complex mission with 621 Field Squadron (Royal Engineers) that followed the landings in Normandy.

Sir Hugh was 21 and armed with a Sten gun when he slowly made his way toward a bridge before he came across many Nazi soldiers. Instead of retreating, he opened fire. Unfortunately in the midst of the shooting, he was shot and was bleeding heavily. Without fearing for his own safety, Fred Harris, who was called Driver Harris at the time, called for cover as he and Sergeant Bill Tynan ran to the aid of their commanding officer.

After the heroic rescue, Mr. Harris continued to serve in France and Belgium. Sir Hugh was sent to India and Java once he healed from his wounds. According to the Express, Mr. Harris never received official recognition for his brave act. He did, however, receive a heartfelt letter of gratitude from Sir Hugh’s father.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE