Yorkshire veteran who defended Post Office from Hitler locked in battle to save it 77 years later

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A WWII veteran who spent the war guarding his local Post Office from the Luftwaffe in York is protecting it again 77 years later, but this time from closure.

Harold Wood is outraged that a 135-year-old building in York that survived Hitler's bombs, will now be sold off by the Post Office to move to a branch of WH Smith.

Harold - who, after wartime service with the RAF, spent the rest of his working life as a salesman for Heinz - sees no reason for it to close now.

Harold - who, after wartime service with the RAF, spent the rest of his working life as a salesman for Heinz - sees no reason for it to close now.

The 95-year-old has added his name to a growing list of locals appalled at the closing of one of the last surviving late-Victorian purpose-built post offices still in use today.

Harold, from York, was part of the Home Guard team which protected the Post Office from incendiary bombs in the York Blitz in 1942.

"The Luftwaffe couldn't destroy it," he said. "It would be sad to see the Post Office do it."

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Harold, from York, was part of the Home Guard team which protected the Post Office from incendiary bombs in the York Blitz in 1942.

Harold, from York, was part of the Home Guard team which protected the Post Office from incendiary bombs in the York Blitz in 1942.

In the early hours of April 29, 1942, Harold, then just 18, was part of a five-man Home Guard team on duty at the Lendal Post Office - a five minute walk away from York Minster.

The unit consisted of a sergeant and four men. They were armed with a rifle and five rounds of ammunition.

At 2.38am, German bombers appeared in the night sky and began raining bombs - both explosive and incendiary - down on the city.

"The incendiaries rained down with a terrific clatter as they ricocheted off roof-tops and buildings, spitting fire," he recalled.

Harold and his team first used buckets of water and a stirrup pump to put out a fire at a shop opposite the post office.

Then they rushed to do the same at the telephone exchange, which was also on fire.

Then it was back to the city centre post office, where the regular night cleaner had appealed for help.

"Armed to the teeth with two stirrup pumps and as many buckets of water as we could carry, we followed him to the top of the building," Harold recalled.

They dashed from one rooftop to another, up ladders and down wooden steps, extinguishing fires wherever they found them.

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By the time the All Clear sounded at 4.30am, 72 people were dead or dying, the Guildhall was in ruins, and 9,500 homes had been destroyed.

But the post office had survived.

Harold - who, after wartime service with the RAF, spent the rest of his working life as a salesman for Heinz - sees no reason for it to close now.

The idea of moving York's main post office to WH Smith is "ridiculous", he said.

"That building is more than a hundred years old," he said. "It was built as a post office, it is fit for purpose, and it is just right where it is. I'm sure they wouldn't be able to offer the same level of service at WH Smith. It's just unnecessary."

The Crown Post Office was built in 1884 by British architect Henry Tanner.

Last year, the Post Office announced plans to close the branch and move the service into WH Smith in Coney Street instead.

A Post Office spokesperson said: "We have the greatest respect for Mr Wood's efforts during the Second World War to protect the Post Office and the wider community in York.

"We do of course understand his concerns about the proposed changes - but we'd like to reassure both him and the community that our proposal to move the branch aims to ensure that these vital services remain in the city centre.

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"The Post Office is not immune to the challenges facing retailers on local high streets, and we must adapt to changing customer needs by making our services more accessible, for instance through longer opening hours.

In York, the plans for the new branch mean it would be open seven days a week, making it easier for customers to visit at a time that suits them."