Burnley D-Day commando sees family in Australia thanks to new project

A kind donation of a tablet has enabled a Burnley commando and D-Day veteran to see his family on the other side of the world.

Private Harvey O’Hara was one of the original D-Day leaders, when aged 21 he landed on Sword Beach in Northern France with No 4 Commando E Troop.

As a member of Veterans In Communities (VIC), a charity based in Haslingden that works throughout East Lancashire, he has benefited from the ‘Veterans Should Not Be Forgotten’ project and now has a tablet on loan that has opened up the world to him.

Harvey (97) whose service nickname was Paddy because of his Irish surname, lives with his grandson Brett, a Royal Logistics Corps veteran.

Harvey receiving his tablet

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Brett’s technical skills enabled his granddad to Facetime his second youngest daughter Pat who lives in Australia and he had not seen since 1994.

Harvey said: “I talk to my daughter every week but when we were able to see each other, she started bawling her eyes out.”

He is now looking forward to Facetiming the grandchildren he has never met.

VIC Project Worker Ray Sharkey said: “Harvey’s story is the embodiment of what this project, funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Trust Fund, is all about.

Advertisement

Hide Ad
Harvey (circled) with his comrades during the war

“Enabling veterans to see family and friends and helping them to gain a new skillset that can open up a whole new world of possibilities to them.”

Photographs of Harvey and his comrades were made into commemorative stamps and postcards that were issued in 2019 for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

He recalled his experience on June 6 1944 saying: “There were six troops of Commandos and in each troop there were 60 of us.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

“The landing craft opened at the front, I jumped off and found I was up to my chin in water and I was 6ft 1ins tall, 13 stone and a fit young man.

Harvey (bottom left) featured on a special commemorative stamp

“In front of us was quarter of a mile of steel barricades that were 10ft high before we got to the beach. I had no fear because we had trained so much and had carried out so many practice landings and landings that had been aborted; it was just automatic for us.

“The Commandos were the most fantastic bunch of men you could hope to meet; they were all volunteers and we had a saying ‘me and my pal’ and where your pal went, you went.”

Advertisement

Hide Ad

He owes his arm and his life to fellow Commando pal Freddy Manley.

On D-Day plus five, the Commandos had reached a place the British called ‘Ogre’, Hauger, on Saccanelles Road, and he was one of five soldiers to be blown up by Nazi bombs.

Harvey said: “The Germans were in the woods and they were exploding bombs above us; the shrapnel came down and hit my right arm.

“I crawled into a slit trench and a friend who was there Freddy Manley bandaged my arm and put me into a jeep.”

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Harvey’s right arm was severely damaged by shrapnel and he also suffered a burst eardrum and shotgun wounds to his right leg and arm, shoulder, face and back.

He was taken to a dressing station near Pegasus Bridge where the orderly said the bandages Freddy had put on his arm had saved it and he was transferred to a marquee beach hospital where he was asked to sign to have his arm amputated and taken by boat to Southampton.

Fortunately, the amputation never happened and in England he spent the next 11 months being treated in four different hospitals and was one of the first military personnel to have his wounds treated with penicillin by Alexander Fleming’s team.

Ten years after his injuries, shrapnel was still emerging from his skin and pieces are still embedded in his body.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Harvey, and late wife Maggie, had five daughters and a son, 20 grandchildren, 53 great-grandchildren and eight great-great grandchildren.

He initially worked in haulage and then spent nearly 40 years working at Prestige.

Thanks to Facebook, he is now in contact with the daughter of Freddy, who saved his life. She lives in Folkstone.

In May 2016, Harvey received the highest military medal from France the Legion d’honneur for his part in the country’s liberation.