University of Oxford
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Harry Rushton, RAMC 1943-1945

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posted on 2024-06-05, 19:51 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Harry Rushton 1909-1972 Army Service number 14228619

My father-in-law, Harry Rushton, was called up in July 1942 and following training, served in the R A M C until demob at the end of the war. His Service Record gives details of his height, eye colour, hair colour, build, and so on, and under 'Distinguishing Marks' notes "Scars on left knee." Even though photographs at the time make it quite plain, the document conveniently fails to mention that his right eye was missing (lost in a teenage footballing accident) and that he wore a prosthesis.

Harry sent postcards home from Milan, Venice, Florence, and Algeria to Grace, his wife, and small son Jim. He also sent Jim aerogrammes, with comic-book drawings made by a colleague. This was a new way of communicating, developed to enable serving men to keep in touch with their families

Harry, in a sense, had a 'good' war, serving in Italy and North Africa. It equipped him with a fine range of cooking skills (which he kept quiet once he returned to work as a skilled pattern-cutter in the shoe trade), and a fund of lurid stories about some of his fellow-soldiers' mysteriously acquired ailments.

In 2023, Alex Rushton, Harry's youngest great-grandson, interviewed Jim about his WW2 experience as a child in wartime - it's part of Harry's story:
"Q. Can you remember when your dad came back?
I remember that everyone was very happy. He came back when it finished but he also came back once for a few days leave from the army because his efforts were based in the UK. It certainly made my mum very happy. There were periods of very happy feelings and cheerfulness.
Q. What did your dad do in the war?
- My dad only had one eye so that meant he shouldn't have really been asked to join the war effort.
- They looked for jobs he could do with only one eye. Much of the war he spent doing hospital work with his unit, dealing with people who were ill and injured (he was in 8th Army). So, if there were 5,000 in a unit and some of them in the front line, there would be injuries, as well as flu and colds and other diseases.
Q. Overall, what can you remember as part of living at the end of the war?
The most memorable thing for me - as I was only young - was the excitement when it finished and the sheer joy. Lots of other dads came home and so lots of other kids were happy.
Although it was horrible, it didn't stop people celebrating when it was all over."


Item list and details

1.Photo of Harry in uniform: Harry Rushton jpg 2. Service Medals_058jpg 3. Airgraph 1 jpg 4. Airgraph 2 jpg 5. [not uploaded] 6. Christmas Dinner Menu and Service issue Methodist Prayer Book_ jpg 7. Letter from Tax Office_056(1)jpg; Verso_056(1)jpg 8. 1941 Medical Appointment letter_img056(2)jpg; Verso_img056(2)jpg 9. Postcard to Jim from Algeria dated September 1943_img077(2)jpg; Verso_img077(2)jpg 10. Photo of Harry dining with two colleagues_img077(1) jpg 11. Photo of Harry in North African Street_img077(3)jpg 12. Air Mail Christmas Card 1943_img053jpg 13. The Airgraph_img198jpg 14. Photo of Unit. Harry Rushton 9th from left, 2nd row from back

Person the story/items relate to

Harry Rushton

Person who shared the story/items

Margaret M Rushton

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

He was my father-in-law

Type of submission

Shared at Ahmadiyyah Mosque Hall, Warwickshire on 7 October 2023. The event was organised by Leamington History Group.

Record ID

95752 | LEA016