James Laidler Harris

James Laidler Harris (sometime Ridley), 794853
24th November 1911 - 9th September 1996

4th Royal Tank Regiment

Joined the Royal Artillery and spent 6 years in Hong Kong after which he was put on reserve. At the outbreak of World War 2 he re-enlisted under the name of "Ridley" (his mother's maiden name) in order to join the "Tanks". He ended up in France and believed he and his Sergeant drove the last operational tank into Dunkirk, after being involved in some form of rearguard.. He was ordered to go back to engage a Panzer threat, to which he politely refused (having already seen one and was in no particular hurry to see another). Fortunately, the machine had a cracked engine, couldn't restart and so they stripped off the gun to fortify the outskirts. He was one of the last to leave Dunkirk.

4th Royal Tank Regiment were then involved in the fighting at Tobruk. He was awarded the Military Medal and subsequently captured. He was a PoW in Italy.

His third escape found him with a friend, G. Nesom, moving through Italy, with the help of Italian people and a Donkey for his friend. The two men somehow made it behind Allied lines some months later.

He returned to Germany at the end of the war assisting with clearing Belsen and other concentration camps.

In later life he emigrated to Australia and became a gardener. He developed a rose specifically for the War Graves Commission.