Bob Early speaks about identifying a high ranking SS Officer

17 October 2013 14:00

Bob was responsible for the arrest of Harnig, a high ranking SS officer, known as the Jew Baiter of Paris.

99 year old Bob Early, tells his story of Serving in World War II. He speaks of when he served in the UK, Italy and finally in a covert operation in Germany where he uncovered a high ranking SS officer.

During WWII Louis 'Bob' Early of Earley in Berkshire Served with the Royal Artillery in Italy and Austria. A skilled joiner and cabinet maker at the end of the war he was sent to occupied Germany where he taught his craft to British soldiers in a factory near Bad Lauterberg to prepare them for life after the Army. However, he had another mission: to fraternize with the German workforce in the factory where he held his classes to gain their trust. This was part of his work to identify Nazi war criminals, who it was suspected were in hiding in the factory.

Bob was responsible for the arrest of Harnig, a high ranking SS officer, known as the Jew Baiter of Paris. Harnig's strange behaviour aroused Bob's suspicions and one night he risked his life as he stole into the factory to go through Harnig's cupboard in search of evidence.

Bob said: "Germany had just lost the war and there were a lot of Nazis hiding and taking jobs to try and lose their identity because they were wanted. I suspected one of the directors after getting into his office one night."

What he found was a photograph of an unbearded Harnig, which he compared to those of Nazis who were high on the most wanted list. He sent it to his superiors who confirmed it was Harnig, who was immediately arrested and taken to Berlin and later tried at the Nuremberg War Crimes Court. He was charged with sending hundreds of men, women and children to the concentration camps and to death in the gas chambers. Found guilty, he was hanged. Bob was not implicated in the arrest and continued his work in the factory.

Demobbed in 1946, Sergeant Early found that after his war experiences he couldn't work for anyone again. He promptly set up his own business and was soon commissioned to make a cabinet for the King. Not long after his talents led him into the world of television, which was still in its infancy.  Known as 'Mr Gadgeter' he made the all the paraphernalia for two Eurovision song contents and two General Elections, including the 1955 General Election, the first to be broadcast on TV, when he had to build a gadget using 600 table tennis balls to show how the different parties were doing. It was at Alexandra Palace and Richard Dimbleby was the commentator. When a party member won a seat, Bob had to drop a table tennis ball down the chute.

There were no electrical gadgets then and television was still in its infancy. The programme went on to the early hours of the morning and at 2am a note was passed to Bob that read: 'Well done, your result model comes over fine on screen.' It was signed by the Governor of the BBC.

Using the touch typing skills learnt at Blind Veterans UK Bob has written of this experience in his book I Well Remember. Published by Ammonite Books, it retails at £10.95 and is available from Bob who can be contacted on 0118 9661146, or from your local bookshop. Bob's latest book The Secret Tunnel is also available after being published this year.

Read Bob's most recent interview is featured in the The Reading Post.

If you know of a veteran like Bob suffering with sight loss, or if you think you might qualify for our support please get in touch with Blind Veterans UK by calling 0800 389 7979.