BLISSETT, Harry Harold   [1913 - 1977]

Harry Harold Blissett’s story is very much a reflection of the ethos of Britain’s World War Two ‘citizens army’; a man who put aside his peacetime occupation to see frontline action in some of the war’s most violent campaigns and then returned to his profession, his military exploits largely unknown to those around him.

He was born in Chesterfield in March 1913, the son of Harry Harold Blissett, a miner, and his wife Emma. After taking a geography degree at Sheffield University he took up a teaching post in Liverpool, living in Wavertree at 50 Charles Berrington Road L15. Having served in the university Officer Training Corps, his call to the colours came as war loomed on the horizon, being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Liverpool King’s Regiment in June 1939.

Once in the army he was selected for service as a commando, and after training embarked with 2nd Commando for Gibraltar where they were to relieve the garrison. Harry Blissett had two notable fellow-officers in in the brigade. One was  ‘Mad’ Jack Churchill, a famous figure noted for going into action with a longbow and a broadsword, and Henry Wellesley, 6th Duke of Wellington. Whilst on Gibraltar Harry Blissett was serving as adjutant and after a lengthy period of inactivity he posted orders for ‘Operation Nuts’. This involved the officers gathering together in order to “go mad for an hour”. Apparently some mimicked the Gibraltar apes, some played impromptu indoor rugby and others simply shouted. Clearly sophisticated motivational psychology at work.

Having ‘missed’ the start of Operation Husky 2 Commando eventually sailed for Sicily on 18th July 1943 and were almost immediately in action behind enemy lines seeking to clear the way for Montgomery’s main force to advance. Barely rested from this action their next  deployment was on the Italian mainland, landing at Vietri on the southern side of the Sorrento peninsula. The immediate objective was to take out the German coastal defence battery and then root out any enemy in the mountainous area behind the coast. They had no element of surprise and the German presence was significant supported by Panzers. The fighting was ferocious, the Duke of Wellington being one of many to lose his life. Harry Blissett’s accounts of the action, he being in the thick of the fighting, are quoted at length in The Pilot and The Commando by Anthony Meredith [Author House 2011] which tells the story of one of his fellow officers Jos Nicholl MC.

Fifty years later there was an interesting post script to the Vietri landings, when Blissett’s son, David, discovered a large quantity of documents, maps and photographs about the action in a locked drawer. These were all presented to the local museum in 2014 with an article appearing in the local newspaper.

Promoted to be Brigade Major with 1st Special Service Brigade Blissett was in the thick of the fighting which followed the Normandy landings. His exceptional contribution was acknowledged when he was mentioned in despatches, receiving the Croix de Guerre with vermillion star. The citation read

Major Blissett was Brigade Major of 1st Commando Brigade during the period 10 June until the brigade was withdrawn, during which time his indefatigable devotion to duty was an example to all ranks. During the advance across the River….. on 20th August and the following assault on the Heights of Angeville, Major Blissett, though still suffering from an acute attack of malaria was always up with the advance elements, while his tireless zeal and efficiency were of the utmost assistance to the Brigade command during a difficult and strenuous period. He behaved most admirably at all times, and on numerous occasions when under fire showed complete disregard for his personal safety.

After the war Harry Blissett returned to Liverpool to teach geography at Quarry Bank High School, although he continued to serve as a territorial until 1960, receiving the Territorial Efficiency Decoration in 1950. From the mid 1940s to about 1953 he lived at 39 Henley Road L18, moving in 1955 to 71 Queens Drive L18, where he lived until he moved to North Wales in the 1970’s. He was married to Maria O Whomsley, also a teacher. He died at Mold, North Wales, on 18th December 1977 aged 64.

50 Charles Berrington Road L15

Harry Blissett's Liverpool home before the start of the war.

39 Henley Road L18

Blissett's home from the end of the war to c.1955

71 Queens Drive L18

Blissett's home from c.1955 until he moved to North Wales in the early 1970s.

The officers of  2 Commando in Gibraltar June 1943. Harry Blissett is front row 5th from left. 3rd from left is the Duke of Wellington, 4th from left 'Mad' Jack Churchill.


There is no singular source on Harry Blissett. he is mentioned in an article on Lt-Col Derek Mills-Roberts on the pegasusarchive website. Brief details of his war service are on the specialforces website and the commandoveterans website. The aforementioned The Pilot and the Commando gives quite a detailed account of 2 Commando's actions on Sicily and at Salerno with numerous qotes from Harry Blissett's accounts.