Friday, 26 February 2016

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to its oldest and greatest test pilot, Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown

Eric, who has died at the age of 97, between the 1930s and 1980's flew 487 types of aircraft, ranging from gliders to fighters, bombers, airliners, amphibians, flying boats and helicopters. This is more than any other pilot has flown, or is ever likely to fly. His 2,407 deck landings at sea including the first in a jet plane and 2,721 catapult launches are world records which are unlikely ever to be broken.
Blessed with exceptional skill and completely without fear, he received the affectionate nickname, 'Winkle' from his Royal Navy colleagues. It was short for the small mollusc, the 'periwinkle' because of his 5 ft 7 in stature which enabled him to put his "legs under the seat and curl up like a little ball in the cockpit," which he believed had "saved me because there were occasions I would have lost my legs in crashes."

What you possibly didn't know about Eric, that he :

Was born Leith, Edinburgh in 1919, the son of Euphemia and Robert, who a few years before, during the First World War, was an infantryman in the Royal Scots, then in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) Balloon Unit as a Battlefront Observer and pilot, before transferring to the RAF when it was formed in 1918. Eric recalled : "I think I was about 8 or 10 and my mother was very anti me being indoctrinated into aviation, but regardless of this, he took me up in a 'Gauntlet' sitting on his knee, which was really one of the stupid things to do, but there we are. I sat there and he allowed me to move the stick around. That's the first time I actually flew. Of course my Mother didn't know about it at all or she would have gone through the roof . He was quite determined I should have a feel for aviation."

At the age of 11 he won a scholarship to the prestigious Royal High Grammar School for Boys in Edinburgh where he excelled both in the classroom and, despite his diminutive stature, in gymnastics and rugby and while there, had to come to terms with the premature death of his mother.
He recalled : "I've always had in my life a tendency to try something hazardous. I was the only one at school that had a motorbike, a 500cc Norton. I used to make my summer money by being a motorbike rider on the wall of death."

A visit to the Berlin Olympics with his father when he was 17 in 1936, saw Robert take advantage of his RFC background and introduce Eric to Ernst Udet, the second highest scoring German ace in the First World War after Von Richthofen, the Red Baron and Hanna Reitch, the remarkable female test pilot.

Ernst, who was Head of the Technical Department of the German Air Ministry, asked him if he would like to fly. He recalled : "We went down to the airfield in Halle and he took me up in a 'Bucker Jungmann', which is a two seat trainer. He strapped me in very securely and I thought : 'that's nice. He very concerned about this.' Anyway off we went. He did every aerobatic known to man. " 

"I was hanging on to my stomach grimly, but managed not to throw up and finally when we came into land and he was on the glide, suddenly turned this thing upside down and I was convinced had had a heart attack and I thought : 'This is it', when, because he hadn't said a word, suddenly, he rolled it over and landed. He was that magnificent display pilot. When he touched down, I was speechless throughout and he roared with laughter and of course this was a great joke, but when I got out he slapped me on the back and he gave me  a German fighter pilot's greeting which is : "Hals und Beinbruch", which really means "Broken neck and broken leg".  It's just saying : "You've stood up to this well". On the drive home he said to me : "You know Ill make a deal with you. If you learn to speak German and learn to fly you can come back and see me some time."

Eric's flight with Udet must have been similar to the one Udet made by German teenager 'Heinz' in 1935, filmed as part of the Government's efforts to promote recruitment to the Lufwaffe :

To fulfil his part of the deal with Ernst, Eric left school in 1937 and became an undergraduate at Edinburgh University reading Modern Languages specialising in German and joined the University Air Squadron where he learned to fly. As part of his university course, he returned to Germany at the age of 19, as an Exchange Teacher working at Schule Schloss Salem. He renewed his acquaintance with Ernst and Hanna and saw her fly a Focke-Wulf 61 helicopter. When he met her again nearly ten years later, after Germany's defeat in the Second World War, he said that her fanatical loyalty to Hitler “made my blood run cold”.

In 1939, as war approached, though still a student, he returned to Germany at the request of the Government : "A little group from the Foreign Office asked me if I was interested in joining the Diplomatic Corps ? Having agreed, in early September I decided to go to Munich for a weekend and drive up in my car. On the third of September, at about six in the morning, there was thunderous knock on my door. Two SS officers said "I have to tell you, you are under arrest because our two countries are at war." After 3 days incarceration, was escorted in his MG Magnette sports car to the Swiss border and expelled from the country. They told him they were allowing him to keep the car because they "had no spares for it".

At the age of 20, back in Britain and having been told by the RAF that “there was no rush for my services”, he enlisted in the Fleet Air Arm and was posted for fighter training to Belfast, where he met his future wife, Evelyn. He then moved on to Yeovilton in Someset and flew the 'Gloster Gladiator' in his first encounters with the Luftwaffe. His first operational appointment was the 802 Naval Air Squadron flying the 'Grumman Martlet' which he described as a 'tough, fiery, beautiful little airplane."

From the converted Carribean banana boat, now the escort carrier 'Audacity', he provided fighter protection to North Atlantic convoys. He was twice involved when his squadron shot several German long-range bombers and he himself shot down two four-engined Focke-Wulf Kurier bomber-cum-reconnaissance planes in head-on attacks and was awarded the DSC for his bravery and skill in action against enemy aircraft and in the protection of a convoy against heavy and sustained air attacks He identified the 'Focke-Wulf Kurier' Bomber as his most formidable opponent : "realising what I was up against I had studied this very carefully : how the guns could depress or elevate. There was only one black spot they couldn't reach and that was if you came in flat towards the pilot's cockpit. Your own grave danger was colliding with your target. You get that exhilarating feeling when you've nailed him."

He was in a convoy returning from Gibraltar in 1941 which was heavily attacked and on the Audacity when it sank. He recalled, with his usual understatement : "We found ourselves in the Bay of Biscay in December, which is not the healthiest place to be." A frigate rescued some of the crew but had to leave Eric with another 25 men in the sea because it was a sitting target for U-boat attack. He recalled : "We tied ourselves together and there were only two pilots, myself and my flight leader, the rest were seamen from the ship. We had mae wests which kept us afloat nicely, but they had only virtually inner tube tyres around their midriff and cords over their shoulders and after the rescuing destroyers left they fell asleep, exhaustion I think and of course they drowned because our mae wests would keep our necks out of the water, but these inner tube affairs were useless. The other guys were all lost and in the morning there was only my flight leader and myself. It was a ruthless war and it wasn't just the enemy. You had another enemy in the sea."

Back on land and in the air again he was involved forcing off course and in flight, 400 mph, German V1 flying bombs, which had targeted on British cities. This involved the dangerous manoeuvre of tipping the bombs wings using the 'Tempest V' fighter. He recalled : "I was doing a series of trials and the engine blew up and the propeller went absolutely solid. I saw the engine was on fire outside. I didn't realise I was burning inside until my feet cooked. I realised that I had to get out. Bailing out is not as easy as many people think and when I stood up in the cockpit to grip my legs over the side I was pinned back by sheer slip stream effect. So then what I did was, get one leg over the side, one leg on the seat, leaning, getting one hand on the stick, pulling it hard towards me and that catapulted me out. You don't get much time to worry about the finer points of it. The thing is to get out, move out."

Though never formally as a test pilot, Eric's flying prowess was so outstanding that he was sent to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough to test new aircraft at sea and therefore risk his life every time he climbed into the cockpit, since test pilots died at the rate of 25% each year. It was trialling the landing arrangements in new carriers, that he suffered a rare accident when, in September, he crashed a 'Fairey Firefly' on the deck of the carrier 'Pretoria Castle' and hit the crash barrier, sheared off the undercarriage and shredded the propeller, but escaped unhurt.

If landing on a carrier wasn't difficult enough, he had the attendant problem of finding it : "You are sent off into the big blue yonder, not sure where your carrier is - maybe 100 miles away in the ocean. It was Russian roulette. When landing on a carrier, you are essentially aiming for a small layby in the middle of a large lake."

In April 1945, because he was fluent in German, Eric was called upon to interrogate Josef Kramer, Commandant of the liberated Belsen Concentration Camp. He was 26 years old and the experience of entering Belsen stayed with him for the rest of his life : "What we saw was just unbelievable. There were piles of bodies as high as this roof, and a lot of people walking around like zombies, no idea what was going on at all. There were just half dead. They had taken a bulldozer and bulldozed the bodies into a pit. They were lying in terribly grotesque positions, arms and legs all over the place. That's not what really got to me. It was this appalling stench. It still does stick in my gullet."
 Two months later, he interogated Hermann Göring, who had been Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe since 1935 and brightened when he learnt that Eric was a pilot. He declined to shake Goring's hand when they parted and instead said : "Hals und Beinbruch". He also questioned rocket scientist Wernher von Braun and aircraft designers Ernst Heinkel and Willy Messerschmitt.

At the end of the War in June 1945, in accordance with Churchill's wish to test German technology, he flew a captured rocket propelled Messerschmitt ME163, which he recalled with typical understatement as "an experience I'd never had before : that the aircraft was step ahead of me. The acceleration was so colossal that you felt that you're trying to catch up with a runaway train. The other aspect, which is in your mind all time, is that you are sitting on board a load of very volatile fuels. There are two tanks and both contained concentrated hydrogen peroxide and a bullet through one of these and you've got a lot of trouble and you were locked into an aircaft which had no ejection seat, you were in a tin coffin really. As I say : 'a tool of desperation' and I haven't met a pilot yet amongst the Germans that would say he enjoyed a relaxed flight on the 163."

He conceded that "to achieve supersonic flight was the holy grail of aviation in my lifetime" and as result of this at the age of 27 in 1946 he flew an 'improved' version of the 'DH 108 Swallow', which had broken up and killed Geoffrey de Havilland and recalled that : "At 4000 feet, without any warning, I'd got a runaway longitudinal divergent oscilation ... The medics reckoned that I would've lost consciousness after 10 seconds of this, but after three seconds, just instinct : I hadn't any plan at all, I pulled the stick slowly back and the throttle together and it stopped this as quick as it had started." 

It was only in 1949 that 'Temporary Acting Lieutenant Commander RNVR (Air) Brown was granted a permanent commission in the Royal Navy, the same year that he suffered one of his rare adccidents, when a prototype jet-powered flying-boat fighter, known unaffectionatly as 'The Squirt', struck flotsam in the Solent and sank beneath him. In the 1950s, when he was in his thirties, Eric received the recognition he deserved when in 1954 he was given command of 804 Naval Air Squadron, flying the 'Sea Hawk' fighter-bomber and in 1957 he returned to Germany to train the new German naval air arm to NATO standards and was asked to help the Focke-Wulf Company as a test pilot. 
Promoted to 'Captain' in 1957 at the age of 38, he served in the Admiralty as 'Deputy Director Naval Air Warfare.' In the 1960s, he flew Chinook helicopters, Buccaneer nuclear bombers, Mach 2 Lightning and Phantom fighters and played a key role in the development of CVA01, a new large carrier which was eventually cancelled by the Labour Government. On land he served as naval attaché in Bonn from 1965 to 1967 then commanded the RN Air Station Lossiemouth until 1970, but his asperity and his single-minded advocacy of naval aviation meant there was no room for him on the flag list and he 'retired' in 1970 when he was appointed CBE.

At the age of 51 he became Chief Executive of the British Helicopter Advisory Board and was proud of his achievements :  the vision to create a nationwide network of heliports, the first of which was at Blackfriars, the promotion of the Air Ambulance and Police Helicopter Services and assistance in the foundation of the European Helicopter Association, although he thought they were overshadowed by his more glamorous exploits as a test pilot.

Back in 1962 he had been ordered to write a short autobiography that would help recruitment for the Fleet Air Arm and in 2006 at the age of 87 he revised and republished it free, of what he called 'petty censorship and security concerns' and as 'Wings on My Sleeve'.

Eric once said of flying : "You're up there on your own and you really feel this is life. I'm the king of the castle up here" and reflected, when age eventually forced out of the cockpit : "I think, when I first had to retire from flying, I think it was a feeling that a drug addict has when he cannot get his drugs. Withdrawal  symptoms were fierce for about a year and then I came to terms with it, but it wasn't easy."

At the age of 93 in 2012 Eric said, with perfect self-deprecation :
"I don't frighten easily, but I've certainly been pretty apprehensive sometimes about what might happen, but you're in a game where you know you're in a risk business and all you do in life is try and minimise that risk."

and of test flying :
"It did become an obsession with me and it was something I felt I had to do, otherwise my soul would never be at peace."


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old cinematographer called Douglas Slocombe

Douglas, who has died at the age of 103, made 84 feature films over 47 years and leaves gentlemen and women of a certain age in Britain, remembering the enjoyment his black and and white Ealing comedies gave them when they were boys and girls in the 1940's and '50s and taking their own kids to enjoy his 'Indiana Jones' films in the 1980s.

 What you possibly didn't know about Douglas, that he :

* was born in London, just before the outbreak of the First World War in 1913 'Daily Herald' and at the age of 10, met James Joyce when the novelist dropped in to his parents with a signed pre-publication copy of 'Ulysses'. and was brought
up and went to school in Paris, where his father worked as foreign correspondent for the

* had a father who, as a journalist, had interviewed  Hitler and Mussolini and been instrumental in freeing Gandhi from prison and in his book,'Paris in Profile' had written poetically of the 'Louvre crouches like a tiger among the trees' and followed Dad into the profession when, after leaving university, he joined British United Press in Fleet Street in the mid 1930s.

* began his career as a photojournalist and later said : "I had fallen in love with photography and was making a living doing photographic features for publications such as Picture Post, Paris Match and Life magazine. But in 1939 I saw a huge headline which I think was in the Sunday Express. It said: 'Danzig - Danger Point of Europe.' I packed up my Leica, got on a train and went."

* was present and endangered himself with his newsreel camera at a meeting of the Nazi Popaganda Minister : "The Eyemo was heavy and could be noisy. Once I was in an auditorium filming a speech made by Goebbels, when suddenly it decided to emit a huge snarling sound. Goebbels froze and hundreds of uniformed Brownshirts turned and glared at me in anger. It was not a comfortable moment."

* later said that he found himself "right in the middle of an absolute hotbed of Nazi intrigue. I remember taking photographs as the local Gauleiter  harangued huge crowds of Germans in the evenings with a big swastika flag in the background and photographed a synagogue which the Nazis had hung a huge banner on. It said 'Komm lieber Mai und mache von Juden uns jetzt frei' - come the lovely month of May, we shall be free of the Jews."

* one evening soon afterwards, noticed the sky over Danzig had turned red from a synagogue on fire and while filming "was arrested by the Gestapo and thrown into a cell but the next morning they let me go. After that the city's Polish authorities, who had been helping get my film out, thought it would be a good idea for me to leave."

* was in Warsaw when the German Airforce attacked and later said : "I'd already filmed with the cavalry and knew they were magnificent horsemen. But now we were at a machine-gun post with a WW1 gun screwed to a tree stump guarding a bridge. There were German planes overhead and German artillery heading across Poland it was obvious the Poles were about to be outgunned."
returning to Britain, worked for the Ministry of Information and at the age of 30 was shooting newsreels and propaganda films and divided his time between the Fleet Air Arm and Ealing Studios, with 'The Big Blockade' with footage shot on Atlantic convoys and made his debut as a full-fledged cinematographer in 'Dead of Night' with Michael Redgrave in 1945.  :

 Thumbnail image of Captive Heart, The (1946) 'The Captive Heart' in 1946 :

Thumbnail image of It Always Rains On Sunday (1947)
A prisoner of war drama, made only a few months after the end of the War :
'It Always Rains On Sunday' in 1947 :

Thumbnail image of Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948)
Robert Hamer's bleak portrait of life in London's East End :  'Hue and Cry' in '47 :
 'Saraband for Dead Lovers', Ealing's first Technicolor film, a period '48 :

Thumbnail image of Whisky Galore! (1949)'Whisky Galore' in '49, a comedy about whisky smuggling in the Hebrides :

Thumbnail image of Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
'Kind Hearts and Coronets' '49 : A dark comedy, featuring no fewer than nine Alec Guinnesses :

'Lavender Hill Mob' in '51 : A group of eccentric Londoners plot the perfect crime :
'Man in the White Suit' in '51 : Comedy with naïve inventor up against :
'Mandy' in '52 : Portrait of a family struggling to cope with a deaf child :
*  left Ealing and went freelance, not wanting to be tied down to a single studio, and divided his time between Britain and America and went on to win the BAFTA--the British equivalent of the Oscar--three times, for 'The Servant' in 1963 :

'The Great Gatsby' in 74  :

and 'Julia' in '77 :

* in 1966 while filming 'The Blue Max' with things not going well between George Peppard and Ursula after the bed scene, she leapt out of bed as naked as the day she was born and stormed off the set saying : “And the bastard didn’t even get an erection!!” to which Douglas replied, “We all did, Ursula !"

* at the age of 64, became favourite of director, Steven Spielberg and was responsible for the acclaimed and technically complex photography on his blockbuster, 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' in 1977 :

* while shooting 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' in 1981, was noted for never having to use a light meter, that almost indispensable tool for most cinematographers, with Harrison Ford later saying that he "just held up his hand and observed the shadow his thumb made on the palm" and in his cinematography, with his use of vibrant colour, managed to be both modern and evocative of the 1930s past of Dr. Jones.

* was celebrated for his wit, modesty, generosity and calming influence on the set.

* spent his last years by the River Thames in London with his daughter, where, sadly, his near-blindness meant he no longer saw a river which long ago featured in black-and-white classics he shot, such as 'Hue and Cry' and 'The Man in the White Suit'.

* in 2009 when he was 96, saw leading figures in British and American cinema take part in a BAFTA tribute to him with Vanessa Redgrave speaking of the "wonderful way" he shot her father as a mad ventriloquist in 'Dead of Night' and the flattering way he lit her and Jane Fonda in Fred Zinnemann's 'Julia' and Glenda Jackson recalled an overhead shot in which he photographed her stark naked on the floor of a rocking Russian train in Ken Russell's 'The Music Lovers', when after a third take, he dropped on top of her from the luggage rack and said, in his charming stammer: "I'm a m-married m-man."

* received tributes from the late Richard Attenborough and Alan Parker :

Richard said : "Doug was a Second World War cameraman and he bought a reality, he took away the theatricality of lighting films."

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Britain is a country with a county called Oxfordshire, home for a wealthy Prime Minister but no place for disabled old men

Ian Felton is 70 and lives in Oxfordshire. A former firefighter, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of  50, is in a wheelchair and unable to walk after he broke his neck a few yeas ago. He was also diagnosed with prostate cancer that spread to his spine and lungs and although in remission, he relies on the help of his wife and care workers who visit each morning and evening to get him in and out of bed.

David Cameron is 48, he also lives in Oxfordshire where he is a Member of Parliament and Prime Minister of Great Britain. He enjoys good health and gets himself out of bed in the morning.

Last month, Oxfordshire County Council warned of the 'devastating impact on proposed additional funding cuts to services', placed upon it by David Cameron's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. In order to find further savings of £69m or 11.4% of its gross budget, adult social care for old men and women like Ian will be a big loser. Some £15.6m is due to be axed and support for 'carers', 'health and wellbeing centres' and 'bus subsidies' are all facing the chop.

David, a seriously wealthy man in his own right, also draws his annual salary of 142,500 as Prime Minister. Ian lives on his, and his wife's state pension and his firefighter's pension.

Oxfordshire's Council’s decision to dramatically increase Ian's care contribution, in order to make savings came as a hard blow to him : “I was given a reassessment in November, and at the time I was paying £250 a month. A letter came through in January, which said I was now required to contribute £320 a week for the same care, backdated to the date of the reassessment. I couldn’t believe it.”
He appealed against the decision to ask him to contribute more each week than he had been paying for a whole month’s care and the figure was revised down to £264 a week, which works out at £1,144 a month.

Ian's suggestion about cutting his care bill by staying in bed came to nought :  “I offered to spend two days in bed each week to save money, but apparently I can’t have part-time care. It’s all or nothing, So I would have to spend every day in bed to avoid costs.”

Ian does have one other thing in common with David, apart from the fact that they are both Oxfordshire residents : they don't have mortgages on their houses, only in Ian's case, because he has paid off his mortgage the Council upped his care bill. Even so, as he pointed out : “It’ll still take a massive chunk of my pension. I have to contribute to bills and food shopping too, which means virtually all of it will be gone.”

In addition to the screws being placed on disabled old men and women, eight council-run health and 'wellbeing centres', which provide activities and services for old people, will be closed. Voluntary sector day centres are also at risk as funding will be cut, saving the council £750,000 and while some may be able to survive using other funding streams, many will be forced to close.

Paul Cann, Chief Executive at 'Oxfordshire Age UK' and 'Action for Carers Oxfordshire' said : “The cuts are a real threat to people’s health and their life chances. We know there are many frail older people who are really isolated and the effect of losing that lifeline service in the middle of the week will be hugely damaging. Not getting people out and about is the worst thing you can do.” In addition, 'Stroke Services', 'Falls Prevention' and the recently launched 'Dementia Support Service' also face cuts. Paul said : “I recognise that Oxfordshire has been given an impossible funding settlement. David Cameron should be instructing his ministers to back off councils because we already know there’s a huge funding gap in adult social care.”

Britain, a sad country where disabled old men are forced to suggest staying in bed to cut costs to pay for the increased charges for their social care visits.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to a scarce 'old' Member of Parliament for Sheffield and ex-coalminer, Harry Harpham

When Harry became an MP at the General Election last year, he had already served Sheffield on its City Council for fifteen years, he said : "I love our city. It’s my home. It’s where I’ve raised my kids, where I live and where I represent. Thank you for electing me as your MP, so I can take the views and issues of people here to Westminster." Diagnosed with cancer just a week after the Labour Conference in September, Harry has died at the age of 61 and the people of Sheffield know they have lost a great champion.

Harry was born Robert Harpham in the market town of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, described by D.H.Lawrence in Lady Chatterley's Lover as 'that once romantic now utterly disheartening colliery town', in 1954. Harry admitted that : 'I had little in the way of education – lads from my community didn’t stay on in school, we left as soon as we could, put on a hard hat and went down the pit' and in his maiden speech as a Member of Parliament last year said : "I am originally from Nottinghamshire. At 15, I left school on a Friday and started down the pit on the Monday morning. I had no qualifications to speak of."

The pit in question was Clipstone Colliery, where, on his second day down the pit, he was given a copy of Robert Tressell's 1911 socialist novel ‘The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists’ and found the book ‘fired his enthusiasm’ for politics.

At the age of thirty and out on strike in the massive 1984 coalmining dispute, he was an enthusiastic NUM member and colliery rep. For a number of reasons, the Nottinghamshire miners were less militant than their Yorkshire counterparts and Harry and his 60 fellow miners at the colliery, who remained loyal until the strike ended in 1985, found themselves suddenly living in a hostile village where former friends would not look him in the eye.

Along with the other strikers at Clipstone, Harry had been led and probably shared the sentiments of fellow coal-face worker, John Lowe, who recorded at the end of the strike : 'This report is the hardest I’ve ever had to try and write. I feel so full of emotion – anger, frustration, shame, bewilderment. I’m finding great difficulty in putting my thoughts together. Mid-afternoon the news came through that the conference had decided narrowly, ninety-eight to ninety-one, that the strike was at an end. My wife cried tears for me that I couldn’t cry for myself; they’ll probably come later.'

With his first hand experience of the struggle between the NUM and the Thatcher Government it is not surprising that he said : 'For someone from my background who had experienced what a Tory government meant for people like me and communities like mine, joining the Labour Party was a given. I joined because then, as now, working people have never been handed change, we've had to fight for it and I wanted to play my part.'
Having lost his job in the aftermath of the strike in 1985, Harry 'got a second chance in education' and attended Northern College based at Wentworth Castle in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, which had been founded seven years before, with trades union backing and a mission to 'transform individuals and communities' and the promotion of a 'pedagogy of social purpose education.' After two years of residential education, Harry moved to Sheffield and at the age of 33 undertook his three year degree course and in 1990 'was proud to graduate from the University of Sheffield.' He was, by now, not only a Labour Party member but also an active campaigner in the Anti-Apartheid Movement and CND.

Harry took his first step into urban politics as representative of Manor Ward on Sheffield City Council at the age of 46 in 2000 followed by Darnall Ward in 2004. He lived in one of the most deprived districts, worked as a warehouseman by night and advice centre volunteer by day and said : "I live in the real world. I get it." In 2012 he was elected as Deputy Leader of the Council in 2012 and not unsurprisingly, chaired the 'Primary Capital Programme' to ensure primary schools were fully equipped for 21st Century learning and was justifiably proud to have 'led a delegation to Downing Street to secure half a billion pounds of funding for local schools.'

In addition, as Cabinet member for 'Homes and Neighbourhoods', he oversaw the implementation of the £700 million 'Decent Homes Programme' in the City, a massive undertaking as Sheffield has twice the national average number of council homes, and successfully brought council housing back under municipal control from an arm’s length company and said that he was 'incredibly proud to have overseen the biggest expansion of Council housing in Sheffield for 20 years by bringing stock back in house and building new houses too.'

He also 'led the charge to make our Council a living wage employer - a fair day's work should always mean a fair day's pay' and expanded recycling across our city as Cabinet member for 'Streetscene and Waste Management' and made the decision to stand as an MP : 'because time and again people say they don't want politicians who are 'all the same'. I'm an ordinary bloke who used to work down for the pit for a living. I've worried about pay the bills like everyone else here. I think I fit the bill of someone who has lived a 'real life'.

When former Home Secretary David Blunkett stepped down at the 2015 General Election as the MP for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough, Harry was asked by the Labour Party to put himself up as the candidate and recalled : “I thought you’re mad! But actually I was quite proud that people thought I was able to do that job so I talked it over with my family and decided to go for it. I heard all the time how I’ve got huge shoes to fill."

He was out and about on the streets of Sheffield drumming up votes in the General Election in April 2015 where he explained to first time voter Saeed Amin : "The Conservative Government only looks after those who have plenty. They believe that those at the top should get more and it trickles down to the rest of society, which has been proved wrong time and again and only Labour will create an economy that works for everybody so that everybody gains from the economic recovery."

Once elected with his 14,000 vote majority, Harry knew that his mining background gave him and advantage : “It gives me a unique perspective and a different voice that we don’t usually get in Westminster. I didn’t come up through the usual ranks.” Ideally suited to serve as the Parliamentary Aide to Shadow Energy Secretary, Lisa Nandy, he also served on the 'Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.' He was a member of the 'All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group' and registered his support for the 'Brain Tumour All Party Parliamentary Group' which had been set up by John Bercow in 2005 : 'To raise awareness of the issues facing the brain tumour community in order to improve research, diagnosis, information, support, treatment and care outcomes.'

Harry said in his Maiden Speech in the House of Commons in June last year : "I got into politics because I know the good that can be done by public servants working in the interest of the communities they serve. From the Opposition green Benches, I will do what I can to protect those services from ideological attacks that would reduce them to a shadow and leave those they serve paying the price."

He was perfectly attuned to the needs of his more needy constituents and stated : "Much of the so-called economic recovery in our area has come in the form of low-paid, zero-hours contract work, leaving families unable to budget from one week to the next. Despite the Chancellor's crowing, far too many of my constituents are still struggling to make ends meet. There are 6,000 households in my constituency living in fuel poverty, 14% of the total in the whole of the Yorkshire and the Humber region. That is one of the issues I will take up vigorously over the coming weeks and months."

Harry made his final contribution on the floor of the House of Commons a few weeks ago when he asked David Cameron : "The Prime Minister may be aware and should be aware that Sheffield Forgemasters announced this morning a loss of a hundred jobs in this crisis-hit industry. Many of those jobs will be in my constituency. We have had lots of warm words, hand wringing and some crocodile tears from the Prime Minister and Ministers in this Chamber about the tsunami of job losses across the steel industry. Can he tell me when he's actually going to do something to support world class companies like Sheffield Forgemasters."

“If somebody had told me as a 16-year-old starting down the pit that one day I’d end up representing a constituency sitting on the green benches at the heart of democracy, there would have been a few choice words and I’d have never of believed it.”