DIE HARD FIGHT HARDER

VETERAN INTERVIEW

Machine gunner JEFF HAWARD recalls his journey from Dunkirk to the hostile frontier of Nazi Germany, and how he earned the Military Medal among the darkened pine of the Reichswald

O
 MIDDLESEX REGIMENT VETERAN JEFF HAWARD WEARING, FROM L TO R: THE MILITARY MEDAL, 1939–1945 STAR, AFRICA STAR (WITH EIGHTH ARMY CLASP), ITALY STAR, FRANCE AND GERMANY STAR, DEFENCE MEDAL, WAR MEDAL 1939-1945, AND EFFICIENCY MEDAL (TERRITORIAL) WITH CLASP FOR A FURTHER SIX YEARS OF SERVICE
PORTRAIT BY GLYN DEWIS

Apre-war territorial, Jeff Haward only joined the 1/7th Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own) – the ‘Die Hards’ – in 1937 for want of something to do in the evenings. Yet, on the eve of war in September 1939, he was immediately mobilised and soon deployed to France and Belgium.

What followed is remembered by Haward, whose 102nd birthday is in July, as a series of chaotic withdrawals into new positions, only to abandon those too. In his memoir Fighting Hitler From Dunkirk to D-Day (written with Neil Barber) he vividly recalls the shriek of the Stukas and the thunder of shelling – and being shot through the arm by a jittery comrade. “It was a mistake,” says Haward, recalling the .303 calibre sting. “In the dark, you don’t have time to go ‘Sorry, are you one of us?’ His name was Johnny Hunt, he told me, ‘I aimed for your head’. I said, ‘It’s a bloody good job you’re a rotten shot’.”

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