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Harold Richard Cross August 31, 1919 - July 25, 2012

Harold Richard “Dick” Cross was born in England in 1919, one of two surviving triplets born to Jenny and Harry Cross. The family also included an older brother, Harry and three sisters: Ethel, Helen and Jean. At the age of 13, Harold started work at Kodak Ltd. in Harrow serving cups of tea to the other workers. Eventually, he moved up to working on the bench in the Photographic department. In 1938, at the age of 17, he joined the British forces prior to the start of WWII. At the same age – just 17 – he met his wife Dorothy. It was “love at first sight” and they were married on November 3, 1940. Shortly before he died, Harold recounted to daughter Brenda the story of his seven years in the war. In 1951, Harold, Dorothy and Brenda immigrated to America by boat with only a single trunk and $150 in their pockets. The family settled in Rochester, New York near his three sisters and their families and continued his Kodak career. At work Harold was known for his poems written under the pseudonym of “Avon.” Harold and Dorothy made many return visits to England to visit family. They also traveled to other parts of the world including Japan, France, the Caribbean, Hong Kong, as well as England, Scotland and Wales. After 50 years with Eastman Kodak, Harold and Dorothy retired to the English countryside, but daughter Brenda and granddaughter Mariko soon brought them back to New York. In 2004, they followed Brenda and son-in-law Howie to North Carolina and where Brenda could help in their care. Eventually they moved into Huntersville Oaks nursing home. In 2010, Dorothy succumbed after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Harold continued to reside at the Oaks until his death at 92. Harold was a devoted husband for 70 years, a wonderful father for 69 years, and a loving grandfather for 31 years. When my mother died, he took her in his arms and said, “Darling, wait for me”. She isn’t waiting any more. They are together again. Dad’s War Story I joined the Territorial Army on March 19, 1936 at the age of 17. My brother Harry and I were the 7th and 8th to join. The company was a new battalion in Harrow, England and was being recruited as the 344th searchlight battalion of the Royal Engineers commanded by Colonel Boggiss. I liked it so much the training, the drilling, the discipline and the girls seemed to like the uniform! The uniform was actually a WW1 style and included the “puttees” which were leggings that came to just below the knees. During the week, I worked at Kodak Ltd., having started there at the tender age of 14. At one point The Post Magazine wanted to do a story on “citizen soldiers” and came to interview and photograph the workers. They took photos of me outside with the searchlight and they also took shots of me at work in the Equipment Operations Department which later appeared in the magazine. On the weekends my brother, Harry, and I would train at the Drill Hall. Occasionally, we were sent to the cinema (movie theater) and stood outside trying to get recruits using the search lights as an attention getter. We had two deployments (referred to as “crises”) in 1938 where we were called out with the searchlights to local sites. The searchlight was unloaded from the truck. The truck was carrying the diesel engine that generated the power to power the searchlight. It was positioned about 100 yards away. Since this was before radar, we had to depend on sound locators to pick up the sound of airplane engines; the diesel engine powering the searchlight, if too close, would make this difficult. The crew deployed around the searchlight included an NCO (non-commissioned officer) in charge, two spotters who sat in lounge type chairs with binoculars, one man who actually moved the searchlight as directed by the spotters, a lamp operator (my job from time to time), and two sound locators. The spotter would yell “target” when he saw a plane in another searchlight’s beam and give directions for aiming our searchlight. In 1937, I had made friends with another soldier – Ron Horrex. One day, I mentioned that a button on my uniform was missing. He took said his sister would be glad to sew it back on. I went along to his house and met, Dorothy, and it was “love at first sight”. Dorothy later told me that she had told her mother, “That is the man I am going to marry!”We both cancelled the dates we had for that evening with other people. Soon, I was spending less time at the Drill Hall and more time going out on dates with Dorothy. My Dad had said “Hitler is not going to give in. We’re going to have a war!” and he was right. War was officially declared on the 3rd of September 1939. I was called out of work, went home to change into my uniform, said my good-byes and reported to the drill hall. We were mounted on buses and shipped to Lincolnshire where we picked up our equipment and deployed in a farmer’s field. I was in charge of one searchlight crew. The corn field had just been cut and there were stalks about 3″ long left behind. We pitched our tents and our sleeping bags, which were only filled with straw, were constantly being punctured by the stalks which made for a very uncomfortable sleep! One of our nine member crew doubled as a cook. He set up a cookhouse and received delivery of food stuffs each week. He would make the food and bring it out to those of us on duty. During the daytime we could spend time getting to know the farmer. But at night we had to “stand by” ready to go out to our position on the searchlight. We would be sleeping and then the telephone would ring and we would rush to our positions and get set up. When we heard or saw a plane we would try to find it with the searchlight. Our searchlight was stationed near an airfield where the fighter planes were located. There was real excitement when the first German plane was picked up in our beam. After the plane was spotted, the target was “handed over” from one light to the next and the fighter planes would scramble to meet the enemy. Although our roll was a mostly “passive” one, there was one occasion when a German plane was brought down by one of our Spitfires fairly close to us. We were sent out to find any crew that had survived. Eventually survivors were located, scared stiff but lucky to be alive. I remember looking at the wreckage of the plane and seeing 20 or 30 brand new German helmets thrown about. We never did figure out what they were doing on the plane. In January 1936 George V died and my Mother and I went to London to see the funeral. After Edward VIII abdicated, George VI was crowned king. I was on duty, lining the route. I remember seeing princesses Elizabeth and Margaret in their horse drawn coach as it passed by on the way to the coronation ceremony. As is typical of British weather, it rained. The dyed red stripes that been added to our hats and down our trousers for the occasion started to run. Our faces were soon lined with red and blue dye and we probably looked more like a bunch of clowns! At one point, we were issued overseas kits prior to being deployed out of England. However, with the start of the Battle of Britain, as it came to be called, in September 1940, we were apparently needed more on the home front and thankfully, did not go. We were still in Lincolnshire when it started. Every night Hitler’s planes would come over on their way to London to drop their bombs. They would try to shoot out the searchlights by “shooting down the beam”. I could hear the bullets hitting the ground near my searchlight. But it was the people of London who suffered the most as Hitler tried to bring the city to its knees. I saw Dorothy only occasionally. I would rush home on the train and be knocking on her door. I had no money when I decided while on a weekend pass to ask her to marry me. She accepted and we were married in November 1940 in a ceremony complete with rain and an air raid. We would be husband and wife for almost 70 years. I would stay at Dorothy’s parents’ house just outside London when I managed to get home. The air raids would come every night. We would lie in our beds until we heard the sirens followed by the sound of the approaching planes and then run into the back garden to the small “air raid shelter” that had been installed there. My father-in-law would stand outside the shelter yelling, “Come on, come on!” and then he would remain outside – probably it was preferable to cramming in the small shelter buried just inches below ground. As the war dragged on, Dorothy and I rented a flat a short walk from her parents’ house. The air raids continued, but we opted to huddle beneath the stairs rather than go outside to a public shelter. If we happened to be at my parents’ house when the raid started, we all crowded under my Dad’s sturdy pool table – and that might include (beside Dorothy and me) my Dad and Mum, my two brothers (if home on leave), and my three sisters (occasionally with their dates!) I was stationed outside Coventry on November 15th 1940 when the German bombers put the beautiful city in flames and destroyed the cathedral. After the Battle of Britain, the air raids began to taper off. The searchlights were not needed as much, and our unit was turned into an infantry unit. Instead of the Royal Engineers, we became the Royal Artillery. I remember one instance when we had to accompany a group of 50 or 60 German prisoners to a prison camp in Ireland. We went by boat and the rough seas made everybody thoroughly seasick – even the crew! I wasn’t very impressed with Ireland at the time as the weather was dreadful and all I saw was great chunks of stone sticking out of the ground and lots of sheep. On another occasion our unit was stationed in a lovely Manor house complete with a stable of horses. One day, the owner’s daughters took a few of us out riding. They were very accomplished riders – unlike me. My horse stopped in the middle of the road in a stream of water and refused to move. It was rather embarrassing to have one of the girls come back and rescue me. On yet another occasion, I went with a small group shooting rabbits. I did get my rabbit, but had to shoot it twice. I realized that shooting another living thing of any kind was not something I enjoyed. It’s a good thing I didn’t get deployed overseas. By this time, Hitler was putting his energy into developing the V1 and V2 rockets. The V1 was an unmanned drone equipped with a bomb. You could hear it coming and when the sound stopped, you knew it was dropping its huge bomb. The V2 rockets were more deadly because they flew silently so you didn’t know they were there until the bomb exploded. Dorothy was working at Kodak in the Plate Department when one of these V2 rockets came down on Kodak property but fortunately failed to detonate. If it had gone off, it would probably have taken out the whole of Dorothy’s and my building. Sometime in my career, I was assigned to go to Plymouth to teach units of the Home Guard how to use a 20 mm anti-aircraft gun known as a Hispano-Suiza. These guns were in many of the RAF (Royal Air force) fighter planes. They were also located on the ground and the Home Guard needed to know how to use them. I went from unit to unit stripping down the gun and showing them how to use it. On one occasion, a soldier working with me was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got hit by the guns recoil. That same soldier, Mick Sharp, would survive and later become my brother-in-law marrying Dorothy’s sister, Eileen. One night I found myself riding a motorcycle through the Exmoor countryside carrying the “colors of the day” to the searchlight sites. (The colors of the day were changed every day for security purposes.) As I rounded a corner on the narrow country road I found myself on a collision course with a car. I ended up going over the hood or “bonnet” of the car, but fortunately was not seriously hurt. The driver was a women WAF driving a naval officer. I can still hear the officer telling her off for her bad driving. In April 1943, I got a telegram telling me that I was a father of a baby girl – Brenda Christine. I got a pass about a week later and came home to see my new daughter. It would be almost three more years before I finally came home to be a full-time husband and father. –

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