Leonard Harrison GC Bomb Disposal Pioneer
A Short Biography
Leonard Henry Harrison was born at Devonport on 6th June 1906 and educated at Devonport Secondary School. He enlisted into the RAF as a Boy Entrant Aircraft Apprentice in the 1st Entry to No 1 School of Technical Training RAF Halton in January 1922. He graduated as a Fitter Armourer A.C.1 in December 1924 and in 1934 joined the Reserve as a Sergeant.
On 11th February 1940 as a civilian instructor at RAF Manby he was called to use his knowledge and skill when a grain carrier limped into Immimgham Dock having been bombed in the North Sea. An unexploded bomb was wedged in the main deck. The bomb had a fuze of a type unknown at that time. With help from a colleague, Flt Lt John Dowland and fellow instructor, Harrison managed to defuse the bomb. A month later, he was called to defuse another bomb, this time onboard a fishing vessel in the Humber.
In 1943 he was party to a plot. The idea was to re-assemble the fuzes of unexploded German bombs, short circuit them, and have them smuggled into enemy ammunition stores by the French Resistance. The German bombers carrying the bombs with the tampered fuzes would be blown up by their own bombs as they were released from the aircraft. The Germans found out about this and consequently thousands of suspicious fuzes were destroyed as a precaution.
Harrison was commissioned in the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1941 and held various appointments in the training schools.
He retired in the rank of Wing Commander in 1949 but remained in civilian appointments with the Air Ministry until 1970.
His skill and handling of unexploded bombs resulted in him being awarded one of the earliest George Crosses on the Second World War and he was the honorary treasurer of the Victoria and George Cross Association. Len Harrison died on the 15th July 1989. at the age of 83.
The History of the George Cross
In the early days of the war, King George the Sixth was impressed by some very heroic deeds in mine and bomb disposal; deeds performed far from any human enemy but requiring the peak of courage for a considerable time. The King felt that no existing award for gallantry reflected such an impersonal bravery so the George Cross was instigated. It is worn on the right of any other awards except the Victoria Cross.