Harry was born in Coburg in Germany on the 17th November 1923, and later lived and went to school in Berlin. His parents, fearing for the family’s safety, arranged for him to be taken to the UK on the Kindertransport in 1939. Harry eventually arrived at Whittingehame Farm School in East Lothian where he stayed for some time until, at seventeen, he had to leave. He joined the British Army when he was eighteen and became a member of a special troop of Jewish soldiers: men fully fluent in German and highly trained in intelligence.
This highly unusual unit contained specialists in many areas of the commando’s arts and were often detached to other forces so as to utilise their special skills as widely as possible. All members of this specialist unit had to assume false identities, not only to protect them from discovery should they be captured but also to protect remaining members of their families in Occupied Europe. Harry, clearly remembering his time at Whittingehame and his teacher, William Farrington Drew, became Harry Drew. Later he rose to the rank of Sergeant and what follows is his own account of his part in the D-Day landings when Harry was involved in the landings on D-Day itself. Harry landed with the 1st Special Service Brigade commanded by Lord Lovat on Queen Red sector of Sword Beach, near La Breche, on 6th June.
"I, Harry Nomburg, was born in Germany and at the age of fifteen was sent by my Jewish parents to England to escape Nazi persecution. I left Berlin on May 21st, 1939. It happened to be a Sunday as well as Mothers' Day. I never saw my parents again.
At the age of eighteen, I joined the British Army and in early 1943 I volunteered for the Commandos. Together with my green beret I was also given a brand-new name and before the year was over, a set of parachute wings for having graduated from 'Jump School'. My unit was 3 Troop, 10 Commando, in which I was given extensive intelligence training and, as I was also fluent in German, it was in that capacity that I was on loan to No. 6 Commando shortly before D-Day.
On or about June 1st 1944, I was sent to an assembly area just outside Plymouth in Southeastern England and it was from this camp that I was taken by truck to the port of Plymouth to embark in the evening of June 5th on a Landing Craft Infantry in which we crossed the sea to France.
Shortly before we set out, the military Chaplain in his address to the entire Brigade assured us that future generations would think and talk of us as 'Giants'. My own personal feelings were those of most twenty year olds, 'Adventure and Glory'.
The boat was small and crowded and the sea choppy and even though I stayed on deck throughout the night, I was on the verge of seasickness at the time our LCI finally ground to a halt and I could run down the ramp and jump into the water. Wearing the green beret rather than the customary steel helmet and holding my Thompson submachine gun high above my head, I waded onto a beach in Normandy. It was 7am on June 6th, 1944.
My tommy gun had up to this point always been equipped with a twenty-round magazine but shortly before the invasion I was issued with the first thirty-round magazine I had ever seen. Alas, nobody had informed me that when filled with the thirty rounds of .45 calibre bullets, the magazine would get too heavy and therefore easily come loose and drop off. It therefore should never be loaded with more than twenty-eight rounds. Not knowing, I filled it all the way with the result that the magazine got lost in the water and I hit the beaches of France and stormed the fortress of Europe without a single shot in my gun!"