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Henry 'Harry' Austin Lane (1920-2006)                                                       

'Root person' for the Lane family history - Generation 1.  

Left click images for an expanded view.

Henry was the first of four children born to his parents in Inverness, a city in the Scottish Highlands located 569 miles (915 kilometers) north of London. At this time, the boom years of the Second Industrial Revolution (1760-1914) were over and Scotland was recovering from the social and financial devastation caused by World War I (1914-1918).


This worldwide conflict in which Henry's father served with Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (R.N.V.R.), started on 4 August 1914 and ended with the armistice called for by Germany at 11:00 am on 11 November 1918. It decimated a generation of the world’s youngest men. Most directly affected were those families' whose male relatives aged between 18 and 41 years were compelled to fight through both voluntary and compulsory enlistment.


When this war broke out it was generally believed that ‘it will be over by Christmas’ however, it was finally won by the British and French allies through a long, arduous and expensive trial of strength with 6.7 million civilian, and 9.7 million military casualties. The entry of fresh troops from the United States of America (U.S.A.) in 1917 was crucial in securing the final victory.


Fortunately, Henry's father survived the conflict, and at the time of Henry's birth, was working as a railway carriage builder and providing his family with a comfortable lifestyle at 19, George Street, Inverness. This home was a stone-built terraced cottage located close to the river not far from the library and railway station in a thriving district of the city.


​​There is little doubt that Henry had a cossetted childhood. Until the age of 8 years he was an only child adored by his mother and doted on by his maternal Scottish grandparents (as acknowledged by Henry himself). This doting included him eating lunch every school day with his favourite granny, a cherished memory often referred to by him. At the age of 16 years he was devastated by the death of his favourite granny, his great grandmother Ellen Ann Fraser.


​​​As his family expanded during the years of the ​​​Great Depression (1929-1939) they fell upon hard times since his father, like so many other men, found it difficult to secure regular paid employment. ​By 1936, his family was living at 1, Carlton Terrace, Inverness, a tenement house located on Milburn Road not far from the Cameron Highlanders Barracks. ​


This tenement house was built for needy families in 1899, as part of a municipal programme designed to alleviate the housing crisis in Inverness at the turn of the century. Although this was not the home in which Henry was born it is where he was living with his parents and three siblings during his teens. It is also where he lived with his first wife until the couple were divorced. The tenement had a small hallway leading to a central stairwell off which there were 3 x 3 roomed apartments with a shared bathroom at the head of the stairs. There was a small walled-in rear yard but no front garden or room for young children to play. Conditions were overcrowded and afforded little privacy.

​Henry attended the Inverness Royal Academy from the age of 10 to 16 years it was here that his artistic talent was first nurtured, and the School Rector William Compton secured a place for him at the Art College in Inverness. ​He lost his Art College place due to his father’s poor financial standing, and by the time he could afford to pay his own way through Art College he was married with a child on the way.

At the age of 17 years, for an extra income Henry enlisted in the Territorial Army ('Terriers') with the Carrier Platoon, H.Q. Company, 4th Battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, part of the 152nd Infantry Brigade of the 51st British Highland Division, as a Private (Regimental Number 2931338). He could not have known at this time, that a second worldwide conflict would begin on 3 September 1939 as a conflict between Germany and the combined forces of France and Britain and eventually include most of the nations of the world, before it ended on 2 September 1945. The loss of life and material destruction was the greatest of any war in history. An estimated 30 million civilians and 25 million military personnel were killed.

​​​​​Henry served during this conflict from 18 January 1940 to 12 April 1946 as part of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) sent to the Somme, France in 1940 to cover the retreat to, and evacuation from, Dunkirk by British and French troops. The 51st Division formed the rear guard to protect this evacuation with the expectation that they too would be rescued before their limited supply of ammunition ran out. Henry attained the rank of Corporal before he was captured by German forces on 12 June 1940 at St. Valéry-en-Caux, northern France, and spent the remainder of the war incarcerated as a Prisoner of War (P.O.W.).

Before and after the war, Henry was a keen cyclist and a member of the local Clachnacuddin Cycling Club in Inverness. A prized possession was his Claud Butler racing cycle. Henry was also an avid supporter of Inverness Thistle Football Club (the 'Jags'), and had life-long interests in photography, videography, reading, writing and completing crossword puzzles. The only outlet for his artistic talent, was the build, maintenance and continual expansion of a superb model Highland Railway layout in the rather cramped attic of his family home.

Henry started his working life at the age of 16 years as an errand boy, cub reporter and cartoonist for a local newspaper, and after his wartime demobilisation worked as a photographer for 'John Menzies' Chemist in Inverness. From 1953 onwards, he worked as a wireman and installation manager for Standard, Telephones and Cable (S.T.C.), a British telephone, telegraph, radio, telecommunications and related equipment manufacturer.

After a long life which included:

  • ​An extreme wartime experience (1939-1946).

  • Extensive European travel (both alone and with his family).

  • Three wedding ceremonies (one with his first wife and two with his second wife).

  • A total of 55 years of marriage (8 with his first wife and 47 with his second wife).

  • Five children and eleven grandchildren (from both marriages).

  • An enduring career with a 'blue chip' company, Standard Telephones and Cable (S.TC.).

  • The ownership of his home.

Henry was finally at peace, when he died with his family around him, following 6 years of intolerable suffering caused by a severely debilitating stroke.

Heroic Highlander

Just before the Great Depression

when Britain was in recession

following World War I

Henry was born the eldest son.

​There was little Henry could do

during World War II

when fighting in foreign lands

he fell into enemy hands.

Henry's early married life

ended when he divorced his wife

marriage number two had a better start

and lasted until ‘death do us part’.

© Mel Hamson, 2012

Note: In keeping with National Genealogy Society guidelines, personal information about living ancestors has not been revealed on this website.

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