The Three CO's ~ Part 2
'Tis a Wise Child.......
Flight Lieutenant Michael Dymock Harrison Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training)
The Man Michael Dymock Harrison (Mike) was born on 4th February 1934 at Flat 45 Lansdowne Crescent in Royal Leamington Spa the only son of Norman Yates Harrison and Gladys Rose nee Harwood. The family later moved to premises over Sensicles bread shop in Clemens Street and this was one of Mike’s earliest recollections. In about 1940 when Mike was aged five Norman and Gladys separated and he and his mother lived with his Aunt Edna and grandparents at 3 Clarendon Square, Leamington Spa. Mike was educated at Rugby Road School, passing his 11 plus examination and receiving a scholarship at Warwick School. During his time at Warwick, Mike joined the Officer Training Corps which he enjoyed. He was in the first platoon wearing old style uniform with puttees, moving during the second year to battledress with boots and anklets. Mike recalls one of the highlights of his time in the OTC was the privilege of being inspected by Field Marshall the 1st Viscount of El Alamein Bernard Montgomery. In about 1948 Norman & Gladys attempted a reunion and moved with Mike to live on Norman’s houseboat, the “M B Mistress” at Tuckton Bridge near Christchurch. This meant Mike had to move to Bournemouth Grammar School to complete his education, which he described as “Rather a comedown after Warwick”. Unfortunately the reunion was unsuccessful and Mike and Gladys returned to Leamington, where they lived with Gladys’ parents, Edie & Henry Harwood at The Cottage, Guys Cliffe Market Garden in Warwick. When Mike left School aged 15 he took up a five year apprenticeship at Messrs Wright and Bynoe dental practice at 19 Waterloo Place in Leamington as a Dental Mechanic, where he studied Child Orthodontics at Matthew Bolton Technical College in Birmingham, and later a course in Dental Ceramicsat Guys College in London, gaining a City & Guilds Certificate in both subjects.
Whilst at the dental practice Mike met another apprentice, Jim Rigby, who was a member of the Air Training Corps, he persuaded Mike to join the local unit, number 1048 (Royal Leamington Spa) Squadron, and as he had enjoyed the OTC thought he would give it a try. He was enrolled as Cadet Number 63 on 24th April 1949 aged 15, and passed his basic training on 1st August. He was glad he did join as once he had been enrolled it provided many opportunities to fly which he did in Ansons, Sunderlands, aTiger Moth and a Varsity, to glide in Kirby Cadets and Sedburghs, shoot, learn navigation skills and attend annual training camps at RAF Wig Bay in 1949, Sealand 1950, Llandaff 1951, Pembroke Dock 1952 and Swinderby 1953. His first Commanding Officer was Flight Lieutenant Arthur Faulkner, to whom Mike was Best Man at his second wedding in later years. As Mike was an apprentice he was exempt from National Service, nevertheless he applied in 1953 aged 18 and was accepted into the Royal Air Force with service number 3143261 for two years on 20th April 1954 until 13th May 1956. Upon leaving the ATC on 1st February 1954 as a Fight Sergeant, the OC Flight Lieutenant Eric Burden said of Mike “An extremely conscientious and hard working Senior NCO whose help has been of the greatest value to this unit both before I took over and since, especially during a most difficult period of re-building. He will be missed and it is difficult to put into words how much this squadron owes to his efforts". Mike undertook his eight weeks basic training at RAF Hednesford, during which he was selected to represent the RAF in the Physical Training display at the Searchlight Tattoo held in the White City Stadium in London. After this he began trade training as a ground wireless mechanic, posted to RAF Upwood and worked in air traffic control. Upwood was the last Bomber Command station to host the Avro Lincoln aircraft, an upgraded version of the Lancaster, and during Mike’s time at the station, the squadrons were engaged on anti Mau Mau operations during the Kenya Emergency. Upon cessation of these hostilities in 1956 and on their return to Upwood the Lincolns were scrapped and replaced with a twin engine jet, the Canberra.
On 30th May 1955 Mike married Sheila Ann Hardy at St Peter’s Church in Leamington Spa, they had met at a dance held in the Automotive Products Ballroom, AP being where Sheila’s Father Richard ‘Dick’ Hardy worked and Mike Bailey, a fellow Air Cadet was Mike’s best man. They initially lived with Sheila’s Parents, Dick and Evelyn ‘Helen’ at 6 Edinburgh Crescent in Leamington before renting a flat at 3 Portland Place. Towards the end of his National Service, Mike attended a months course on anti nuclear warfare fire fighting under the auspices the Blackpool Fire Brigade, using the Green Goddess fire engines at Washington Hall, Chorley. On leaving the RAF his conduct was described as exemplary, his ability good and bearing as smart. His OC said “Harrison has proved a very good wireless mechanic whilst at RAF Upwood. He should become a very useful radio technician. He was always a very reliable airman, it is a pity that his personal domestic problems prevent him making a career in the Royal Air Force”. He was posted to the R Class Reserve at RAF Hawarden until 15th May 1956. Mike returned to Wright & Bynoes and re-joined the ATC on 8th May 1956 as an adult at a rank equivalent to Warrant Officer today. He was also approached by the National Fire Service who wished to employ him as a retained fire fighter, due to his RAF experience, but as he was in the ATC he declined. On the 30th September 1958 he was Commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch), with same service number at 1048 Squadron under the command of Flight Lieutenant Eric Burden MBE, and promoted to Flying Officer on 4th July 1960 following his Administration Course at RAF Booker from 9th – 15th November 1958. Sheila and Mike had two children Martin Dymock born on 11th August 1961 and shortly after moving to 9 Acacia Road in 1963, Neil Richard 29th October 1964. They also moved at this time to 9 Acacia Road in Leamington Spa. On the retirement of Eric Burden as OC the position was taken by Flight Lieutenant Ewart James and Mike remained as unit Adjutant and was awarded his Cadet Forces Medal in May 1968, formally presented to him at the Wing Parade at RAF Gaydon 19th April 1970. He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 4th July 1970 and a year later in 1971 Ewart was promoted to Wing Staff and Mike took over command of 1048 Squadron on 1st April 1971 having attended his Senior Officers Course at RAF White Waltham. It was at this time that the picture The Three CO’s was taken by the local paper The Courier.
During the next seven years as Commanding Officer Mike attended many annual camps at Royal Air Force stations with the squadron, including RAF Valley, West Raynham and his last in 1977 RAF Odiham. One of the highlights was being selected to escort a mixed unit of Air Cadets to RAF Wildenrath in Germany, a former Luftwaffe Station on the border with Holland. He particularly remembers this as most of the time was spent off station visiting military museums and historic sights in Germany and included a spectacular cruise down the Rhine. Mike also formed a marching band on the Squadron with the help of the RAF Central Band who provided assistance regarding the purchase of various instruments. At that time, unlike the modern Corps, a band was frowned upon as it was considered to interfere with academic studies. The band became a great success and linked up with the local Army Cadet Force, under the command of Captain David Franklin and the Sea Cadet Corps, under Lieutenant Commander Adrian Griffith-Roberts to form a massed band of some 60 cadets. It was the largest band in the district and became much in demand for local events and carnivals. The unit also became involved in the annual Val De Mane March, a 25 Kilometre march around the outskirts of Paris.
In 1973 Mike unofficially enrolled Martin, his eldest son into the squadron at the age of 12 when it should have been 13 years and 9 months. Martin following in his footsteps later becoming a Squadron Leader and Deputy Wing Commander of Warwickshire and Birmingham Wing. The same year Mike also left Wright & Bynoes Dental Practice after 24 years and took up a position as head of Dental Ceramics at Kenilworth Dental Laboratories. It was through the Squadron band that Mike became involved with the Royal Leamington Spa Carnival Committee allowing them use of the squadron parade hall for meetings. Because of his interest in youth marching bands, this lead to the committee being selected to act as points adjudicators for the National Youth Band Championships held annually in London. This lasted for three years during the late 1970s and as a result the Carnival Committee held their own marching bands competition at Campion School in Leamington for a number of years proving very successful and popular. Mike’s association with the Carnival Committee lasted a number of years. He was also asked to join the local branch of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA), but declined whilst he was still serving with the ATC. Mike became eligible for the first clasp to his Cadet Forces Medal on 8th May 1976 and presented with it later the same year at the annual Wing Parade. He retired from the RAF VR(T) on 31st December 1977 but joined 1048 Squadron Civilian Committee becoming its Chairman until December 1982 thus ending his association with the ATC that had lasted nearly 30 years. Once he had retired he enrolled into 310 Branch of the RAFA and on his first meeting literally had the account books thrust into his hands and told he was now Branch Treasurer, followed by becoming secretary and standard bearer.
Mike had numerous other interests and through the RAFA became involved with, and later on the committee, for a number of years, of the Kenilworth Friendship Society, a twinning organisation, making numerous trips to Kenilworth’s twin town of Bourg La Reine just outside of Paris and to Germany. He was also a keen mechanic and completely rebuilt a Mini Clubman and Triumph Herald, the latter for Martin. He was a competent DIYer undertaking lots of work within the house, building a kitchen, lounge extension, helping Neil construct houses amongst many other things During the 1990s Mike rekindled his links with the ATC by becoming Treasurer on the Civilian Committee of 163 (Coventry-Phoenix) Squadron where Martin was now OC. In 1997, he left Kenilworth Dental Laboratories following redundancy and liquidation of the company and became a receptionist at Conoco based in Warwick, until his retirement in 2000 aged 65, whereupon he virtually internally rebuilt a house in Coventry where Martin had moved to. In later life Mike became a keen bowler and played for Pottertons in Leamington, becoming chairman for a number of years as well as continuing to play a key role in the local RAFA. Mike had a hip replacement in 2007, which was complicated by a burst gal bladder, and he spent a number of weeks in Warwick Hospital, before making a full recovery, although having increasing difficulty getting around easily following the hip operation. He was made a Life Vice-President of the Leamington & Warwick Branch RAFA on 10th September 2011, and in March 2016 aged 82 retired as Treasurer after 40 years and was recognised with a presentation of a picture by the Area Secretary.
The Story The Cadet Forces Medal awarded to my Father Mike Harrison, was acquired some years ago as a result of an interesting set of circumstances. Having worn the medal one day on a parade and fete in Leamington Spa, Mike removed it from his tunic and placed it onto the roof of his car parked in the Pumproom Gardens whilst taking his tunic off. Fatally he forgot the medal and drove off, only realising his error much later on, by which time it was too late and the medal seemingly lost forever. Mike applied for a replacement which he duly received marked ‘Duplicate’. To his surprise, some months later the original medal arrived from his Headquarters, having been found by a young boy who gave it to his father, who then handed it in at a police station, where it eventually made its way back to its rightful owner, thanks to the honesty of the young finder. Mike opted to continue wearing the Replacement medal as he always maintained it was of a better quality than the original. The original found its way into my fledgling collection, where it now forms an important part of the Three COs Trilogy. These medals are also one of a scarce group of ‘double’ awards, the original plus it’s official replacement.
Mike's ATC RAF Form 3822 - Log Book
The Three CO's Medals Mike Harrison, Ewart James & Eric Buden
- Cadet Forces Medal: FG.OFF. M.D.HARRISON. RAFVR(T)
This page last updated 28 Oct 16