Harry O’ Hara
“In the winter there, when the rivers froze and the brothers wanted to swim, they threw him in to break the ice. He was toughened up at a young age.”
Geraldine, O’Hara’s daughter
When discussing the history between Japan and Britain, many would mention the Second World War. Few know that Japan was allied with Britain during the First World War.
Harry O’Hara was born in Tokyo in 1891. Only preserved glimpses of his early life remain.
Artwork produced by O’Hara
“At university he began to get communist ideas. It became dangerous, and he ran away. I think he was 19. He was supposed to marry a daughter of a friendly family. He’d seen her once. ”
O’Hara left to work as a journalist in India. When the war broke out, he joined the 34th Sikh Pioneers.
“I don’t know what prompted him. Perhaps adventure. He dared a lot, he wasn’t afraid. Perhaps because they said, “Well, they’re going over to France” and he wanted to fight, so he did that.”
In 1917, O’Hara’s realised his burning desire: to be transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, qualifying as a pilot.
“Then I had some crashes! Sixty altogether. Of course they weren’t all bad smashes. Some were only forced landings but even these usually meant some nasty bumps. But it was good fun.”
Harry O’Hara, during WW1
While flying over the trenches, O’Hara was shot down, ending his wartime fighting. Overall, he received the following injuries: bullet to the hand; shell splinter to the shoulder; shrapnel to the abdomen; shell splinters to his scalp and shoulder (again); shell splinter to the head; rifle shot to the arm; and the shattering of his upper jaw. He also suffered from influenza. His jaw injury required facial reconstructive surgery from the pioneering plastic surgeon, Harold Gillies.
“[Gillies] fixed his jaw so beautifully, he got a new one. But years later, I remember splinters were still coming through the jaw. On a Sunday, when we were having dinner, gravy was spilling down his chin and he couldn’t feel it. It was numb. So we’d have to say: ‘Dad, wipe your chin’.”
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