Obituary: Harold Judd

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The Independent Culture
HAROLD JUDD, Private, 516997, 2nd Battalion, London Scottish, was one of the regiment's two last surviving veterans of the First World War. He served between 1917 and 1919, campaigning in both Palestine and on the Western Front, and remained fiercely proud of the regiment until the end of his long life.

He revisited the old French and Belgian battlefields often, the first time in 1926, the year he married, with his wife, Kathleen, and was at Ypres earlier this month to take part in commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of the Armistice. He was presented to the Queen with other veterans from Britain and Canada at the ceremony she attended at the Menin Gate on 11 November, six days before he died. He was also decorated with the Legion d'Honneur by a grateful French government.

Judd volunteered for service in May 1917, when he was 18, wanting to be seen to go willingly rather than be conscripted. He also wanted to join the London Scottish, which did not recruit conscripts. While born in London, he was of Scottish descent.

After only three months' training, during which he never fired a regulation-issue rifle, he was posted to the Sinai desert in Egypt to join the war against the Turks. The friend he joined up with was killed on their first day in action, after the pair were sent forward to cut the enemy's barbed wire following an ineffective artillery barrage. They succeeded in their task, allowing a successful attack to go ahead.

He was wounded in the leg by shrapnel in the battle for Sheria on 8 November 1917, but remembered the occasion with something approaching wonder. "During the advance on Sheria you could see the whole British army - the waves of infantry, the horse artillery going into action and behind them the camels with the baggage, then the heavy guns. It was a wonderful sight, going forward with shrapnel bursting overhead," he said in an interview for the regimental magazine.

The next action he was involved in was the battle for Jerusalem, which was taken after 48 hours of fighting. His memories of that again show an eloquence of expression not normally attributed to a private soldier:

During the afternoon before the final assault on Jerusalem I looked down upon the Holy City spread out below, where nearly 2,000 years ago Christianity was born. Tomorrow could see another bloody battle, probably hand-to-hand combat, as we were to have no artillery support. I hoped I would survive as it was my fervent wish to walk along the Via Dolorosa to follow the footsteps of Jesus on his way to Calvary.

A few days later I was granted this privilege, and upon arrival at the top of the hill and whilst resting I had a wonderful feeling of happiness, humility and meekness. I was also glad to be alive and well.

From there the London Scottish fought right up through Jordan, then called Hedjaz, to the capital, Amman. Judd's battalion was transferred to France in early June 1918, and he was subsequently involved in the battles at Arras, Dranoutre, Cambrai-St Quentin, Menin and Mons-Mauberge as part of the British offensive which finally brought the war to an end. "We went through the enemy lines like a dose of salts," he said.

After the war he joined the London Midland and Scottish Railway, working in the office of the Chief Operation Manager, and he was employed by British Railways until he retired. During the Second World War he was involved in the movement of supplies, and at the time of the D-Day invasion was responsible for moving parts of the Mulberry Harbour to the coast. At the beginning of the war he had helped organise the move of art treasures to caves in North Wales to avoid enemy bombing.

At Ypres last week Harold Judd gave his last ever interview to The Independent, after he had laid a wreath at the nearby memorial to the London Scottish.

While still joking and chirpy, he did display a certain scepticism when looking back on the Great War and the fact that it did not, as was promised at the time, end all wars. He asked: "Was it all worthwhile?"

Harold Judd, railwayman: born London 30 July 1898; married; died Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire 16 November 1998.