Mill Hill War Hero Fred Harris Reunited With Army General Hugh Beach 70 Years After Saving His Life

Last time they saw each other was when Fred Harris was dragging Hugh Beach on the back of his car, while Harris was shot and temporarily paralysed, under a rain of German bullets, during a terrible World War Two gun battle.

70 years since they last heard from each other, the two Second World War vets have come together to share a drink and discuss about the terrible events, which took place on September 3, 1944, at the La Bassee canal crossing, in northern France. That was the day when Fred Harris and his comrade Sergeant Bill Tynan saved Lieutenant Beach’s life, who would later on become an Army General for 40 years and would also be knighted by the Queen.

Driver Fred Harris, Lieutenant Hugh Beach and Seargent Bill Tynan served with the 621 Field Squadron (Royal Engineers) and all three of them had been sent in a Morris Scout Car, to check if the bridge was suitable for tanks. At one point, Lieutenant Beach had left his car to engage with a group of German servicemen, the Times Series reports.

Just as he tried to get back into the car, he was shot in the spine, which led to heavy bleeding. Sgt. Tynan and Driver Harris found a protection against fire, before starting the mission of saving Lieutenant Hugh Beach and drag him back into the car.

Fred Harris comes from Featherstone Road, Mill Hill, and Beach, is currently living in Earls Court. Neither of them know anything about Sgt. Tynan, since they were all three of them in their twenties when this happened. However, General Sir Beach, who is now 90 years old, said he is very happy to be able to buy his fellow military friend a pint and say thank you, during their reunion at the Victory Services Club in Marble Arch on Wednesday.

“I remember the event vividly – like it was yesterday. I was about 100 yards from the bridge and at that moment, fatally, I saw two Germans pottering about,” said General Sir Beach, who is now a happy grandfather of eight. Just when he wanted to return to the car, he was shot in the spine and left paralysed, “useless, hopeless.”

He remembered when Bill Tynan found him and although he told him there is no use for him to bother trying to save him, Tynan was bright enough to arrange for covering fire and then drag him back into the car. He says he doesn’t remember much from that moment but he knows he reported on the bridge, saying it was ” intact and safe to cross.”


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE