Former Leyland headteacher dies

Frank Harrison
Frank Harrison
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​A former head of Leyland St Mary’s High School has died aged 94.

Frank Harrison died in his sleep at his home in New Longton, Preston.

​Mr Harrison is survived by his wife Mary, their children Frances, Barb​​ara, Gillian, Judith, Anthony and Mark, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

​​Mr Harrison was head ​of St Mary’s ​from 1976 to 1982, when he took early retirement.

​Under his leadership, a school room was converted into a chapel to mark the school’s silver jubilee.

It was done to his design by a team of staff ​members.

Mr Harrison had served with distinction in the Second World War, when he was a member of the famous Desert Rats.

He was the brigadier operator in a tank brigade in the Western Desert during the Battle of Tobruk, which was the largest siege in British military history.

During his time there, he was captured by the German army and taken as a POW to Plauen near the Bavarian border.

There were 40 other allied soldiers in total, and they spent their days doing hard labour, repairing damaged railway lines during the day, then held prisoner by night in a converted hotel.

One of the worst tasks he had to perform was to clear up and bury all the casualties after advancing Allies bombed the railway line to Dresden.

Mr Harrison organised a black-market racket with his fellow POWs, in which they traded cigarettes and bars of soap for loaves of fresh bread from the neighbouring French prisoners who were given more liberties than the Brits.

As the war drew to a close, a train was derailed and crashed into his prison, reducing it to rubble and effectively freeing all the prisoners.

As the POWs stood outside the gates, the wealthy land-owning Baroness of Plauen approached Mr Harrison.

There was no-one left to protect the residents as hundreds of starving refugees and marauding vagrants from over the borders swarmed through the streets looking for food, drink, shelter and whatever they could lay their hands on.

So Mr Harrison, along with the remaining ex-POWs, formed an armed guard along the streets and ensured that the vulnerable families were kept safe until the chaos finally abated.

The Baroness was so grateful she gave Mr Harrison a pair of field glasses and a Zeiss Ikon camera, which he kept on the desk in his study until the day he died.

His funeral is to take place on Wednesday at St Mary’s Church, Leyland.