Harold Lyons, 86, joined the army in 1944, just 10 weeks before the end of the war. He served in Germany and Egypt in the Royal Signals, the Royal Norfolk Regiment and the Royal Engineers.
Lyons recalls that it was a devastating time for Britain and said that if he was not conscripted into the war he would have volunteered to join.
“Everyone played their part quite well during the war and the country was absolutely united” he said, “apart from those who objected to the war on moral grounds – the conscientious objectors”.
After the war Lyons became an investigations officer for the Royal Mail and helped jail the Great Train Robbers. For six years from 1963 he was part of the team on their trail, most notably as a trusted right-hand man for Tommy Butler, the eccentric star detective who led the inquiry.
“Even now it is difficult to describe the outcry and the furore that met the news of the robbery,” he said. “Before we had a chance to establish the circumstances of the attack, the Postmaster General (in those days it was a government minister) was demanding to know how much money had been stolen.”
Lyons expected to retain some minor involvement in the case but could not prepare himself for what happened next. Working for the investigation branch of the PO, Lyons’ regular duties included prosecuting bent postmasters or individuals making telephone calls without payment. The job was unpredictable and it often meant living out of a suitcase, making life difficult for his wife Maureen and their children. He once calculated that 10 of the 20 years he had spent in the branch had been spent away from home.
Royal Engineers, Royal Norfolk Regiment, Royal Signals