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Weekly journalist who ‘liberated Paris’ in war dies aged 98

Harry HamiltonA journalist known for his weekly gardening column and for “liberating Paris” during the war has died aged 98.

Tributes have been paid to Harry Hamilton, who wrote the ‘In your Garden with Harry Hamilton’ column for the Observer series, in Sussex, from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s.

Harry, pictured, started his career as a junior reporter on the Hants and Sussex County Press.

At the County Press, he worked alongside future TV personality Alan Whicker.

Harry’s daughter Jemima told the Bexhill Observer: “Later they applied to work for a firm called Putnams, which published several newspapers. Alan was assigned Weymouth and my dad took Poole.

“My dad had many stories relating to his and Alan’s antics together, one of which he told when Alan appeared on the TV show This is Your Life. When the war came he was asked to go to the Hampshire regiment because he came from Bournemouth and this was the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.

“He always told the story that he blagged that he could ride a motorcycle on the first day and then later blagged that he could speak German, which meant that he went from second lieutenant to captain in under a month. At the end of the war he was assigned to the Americans, General Patton’s army, as they were keen to have a British presence.

“There was a convoy driving through Paris to demonstrate to the people the war had been won. My dad was part of this convoy but his lorry broke down and by the time he managed to restart it the convoy had moved on.

“He did not know the route they were meant to be taking and so just headed to the finishing point. He beat the rest of the convoy and consequently was the first to drive down the Champs-Elysees, which erupted with cheers and applause for him.

“He was even given a bottle of Lanson champagne by a stranger. He always joked that he liberated Paris and always loved Lanson champagne.”

Harry also worked as a private detective, a solicitor and then retrained to be a horticulturist in his 50s.

Jemima added: “If my horticulturalist dad were to write his own obituary it would surely start with a pun or some well-known saying like, ‘an old gardener never dies, they just go to seed’.

“There would always be as many of those crowbarred into his gardening column for the Bexhill and Hastings Observer as he could manage.

“He always loved to talk and give advice about gardening and was a loving and sentimental soul.

“Dad was born in 1921 and died aged 98. It was a shock, despite his great age, as he was still very much interested in current events and engaged in his community. He lived in Little Common for nearly 40 years.”

Harry’s funeral will be held at Langney Crematorium, Eastbourne, at 4pm on 17 February.