Harry Ree on Resisting (Updated so that the audio is actually downloadable!)

by Harry on May 13, 2015

One of the stupidest things I have done in life was not taking my dad up on his suggestion, when I was 18, that I go and spend some time living with his friend, hero, and mentor, Harry Ree, and act a sort of secretary for him. As a result, I never met Harry. Harry was an academic education scholar, of the very progressive variety who, later in his career (well, he was only slightly older than I am now) quit professoring, and went to teach in a comprehensive school. I knew, even then, that the regard in which my dad held him meant he was really, really, something, and it was only a combination of shyness, social awkwardness, and the general low-level depression that plagued me for much of my youth and early adulthood, that stopped me taking up my dad’s suggestion. I think about it now, reasonably often, having played the sort of role in younger people’s lives that dad would have liked Harry to play in mine. Idiotic really.

Until recently I assumed that Harry was, at that time, still bound by the Official Secrets Act, so I wouldn’t have learned much about his wartime activities. Not so! He, in fact, starred in School For Danger (aka Now It Can Be Told (youtube has the date wrong)). He began the war as a conscientious objector but then spent most of 1943 in occupied France, working for the SOE aiding the Resistance. Last year was the hundredth anniversary of his birth, and at a celebration held at the Institute of Education my dad got hold of this, amazing, broadcast. I tried to put it up last week for the anniversary of VE Day, but the file was too large for CT and I only just figured out how to put it somewhere else – and anyway, there was a lot of other, less welcome, stuff going on that day. I think the BBC probably hold the copyright, so if they request me to I’ll take it down (but please, if you’re from the BBC, don’t ask me to take it down). It’s a tribute to the ordinary French people who lived, and those who died, fighting the Nazis in the small and large ways they could. It’s also a tribute to the men and women of SOE. I don’t know how difficult it is to give your life for a valuable cause. But I am pretty sure that, however difficult that is, it is even more difficult to live every minute knowing that you, and those who are risking their lives just by not turning you in, might be captured, tortured, and killed, any minute. It is 15 minutes of beautiful, inspiring, intensely sad, poetry. Everyone in who understands English should listen to it. Humbling.



Dennis Wollersheim 05.13.15 at 10:34 pm

the link to the broadcast takes me to a Box account login. I think you need to make it public.


NomadUK 05.14.15 at 1:04 am

box.com link doesn’t seem to work. (‘Can’t find the page’.)

Maybe use Dropbox?


Paul Davis 05.14.15 at 1:52 am

Box is a service for members of UWisconsin. Nobody else.


js. 05.14.15 at 1:57 am

No, “Box” is a general hosting service/platform, much like Dropbox. But it does require an account (which is free) and login. Doesn’t Dropbox do the same though? I guess I’ve never tried using Dropbox without an account.


JanieM 05.14.15 at 2:03 am

js. — I don’t have a Dropbox account, but people sometimes send me stuff via Dropbox by sending me a link in an email, and I can use the link to pick something up without having to log in myself.

That’s not the same as what Harry is trying to do, though, in making something available generally.

For the record, the link works fine for me, but I’m not signing up for yet another online account that I’ll probably only ever use once. No disrespect meant; I’d love to listen to the broadcast.


js. 05.14.15 at 2:03 am

Oh, I see why it looks like it’s a specific UW thing, but just click on the bottom where it says, “Not a UW member?” or whatever, and it’ll take you to the standard login page.


js. 05.14.15 at 2:08 am


Yeah, it occurred to me after I posted that I’ve used Dropbox to send photos to my mother (and others too) on several occasions, and she definitely doesn’t have an account.

I kind of find it amazingly tedious to sign up for these things too, knowing I’ll never use them again. (Except Dropbox! Which I actually use a fair bit, or used to anyway.) Harry, any chance of putting this on Dropbox? If nothing else, it’s objectively better! (Say I, having never used box.com.)


NomadUK 05.14.15 at 2:14 am

Funny, I never get to any UW site. The link https://uwmadison.app.box.com/files/0/f/3586337567/1/f_29909255639 takes me to a box.com error page .

Anyway, I suppose it’ll get cleared up eventually. Or not.


Lasker 05.14.15 at 2:16 am

I made a Box account for this, but even then clicking the link leads to a dialogue box telling me “You cannot perform this action”.


js. 05.14.15 at 2:31 am

So, of course! I had to try it. And Lasker is right.

Harry, if you’re using a version UW-customized version of box, there might be a permissions issue where unless you access it through the UW servers, you can’t actually access the content. This is somewhere between pure speculation and an educated guess, but either way, it doesn’t look the file is actually accessible (at least for those of us who have no UW affiliation).


David 05.14.15 at 11:16 am

Can’t access it either. But on the underling issues in the post

– the French Resistance is actually one of the most inspiring stories in modern history. I doubt if more people have ever devoted their lives, for so long, to an essentially symbolic cause with the near certainty of eventual betrayal, torture and imprisonment, or more likely death. Although the Resistance was also preparing for an Allied landing one day, its main function during the occupation was to preserve French national pride and act as a symbol of hope. It also meant wrenching moral dilemmas, for people who had come from the most ordinary of occupations where they had no ned to consider such things. Not only were friends and families in danger, but the Germans had a policy of executing hostages after every attack. So a single bomb planted or shot fired could result in the deaths of ten innocent French people in front of a firing squad. That must have disturbed the sleep of more than a few .
I never had the chance to meet any of the actual Resistance members, but I got to know a number of people who worked underground for the ANC is South Africa. Their main memory is of endless, gnawing fear of discovery, with consequences as bad as any the French suffered, never able to relax, always fearing the knock on the door in the middle of the night. “We never slept” was how one (white) ANC member put it to me.
It takes a certain very special kind of courage to act like that. I doubt if I could do it; I wonder how many others could.


Harry 05.14.15 at 12:24 pm

I’ve put it in dropbox. Could someone check if they can get it to work? Sorry, I should have stood by rather than posting this and then abandoning it!


Agog 05.14.15 at 12:49 pm

Harry – downloaded it & it’s fine.


William Timberman 05.14.15 at 3:49 pm

Don’t want to sign up for a dropbox account, thank you very much. For the same unreasoning reason, I won’t get to see my friends’ grandkid pictures on Facebook either. Inconvenient, but I’ll live with it. (f this is all it takes to make me a Luddite, I’ll wear the teeshirt gladly.)


JanieM 05.14.15 at 3:56 pm

William T: you don’t have to have a Dropbox account, you just have to be willing to let the file be downloaded to your machine. Click the link, click Download. I’m listening to it right now.


JanieM 05.14.15 at 3:57 pm

P.S. I say that as a fellow Luddite. I thought I was the last person on earth with an internet connection who wasn’t on Facebook.


Russell L. Carter 05.14.15 at 4:05 pm

When the drop box signup popped up, I just clicked the X and it went away, and then I downloaded the mp3.


JanieM 05.14.15 at 4:14 pm

Just listened to the whole thing. Thanks, Harry, for making it available.


harry b 05.14.15 at 4:38 pm

Yeah, having screwed it up the first time, I made sure that you don’t have to sign up for dropbox… so you’re ok William!


William Timberman 05.14.15 at 5:22 pm

Yes, thanks all. I guess I missed the get-out-of-jail-free button the first time ’round. I could trot out the excuse that the Intertubes shortens everyone’s attention span, but no one would buy it, and I would wind up being even more embarrassed than I am admitting that I just missed it. Anyway, I’ve got the file now, I WILL listen to it, and once I find my jeweled mask with the little handle on it, I may even sneak back here to comment on it.



Peter T 05.15.15 at 2:27 am

Sidenote for Harry as a philosopher, and without detracting from the heroism of the Resistance, or the ANC is any way: The same enormous degree of persevering cold-blooded courage was shown by u-boat crews from 43 on – to go out was to endure constant attack and the near-certainty of a horrible death, with the only means of preservation an unremitting attention to complex technical tasks under the most horrendous of conditions. It says something about humans that we can be as heroic in the service of great evil as of great good; indeed without this neither would be possible.


BT 05.16.15 at 12:55 am

Still no luck with that audio – can’t you just upload it to youtube instead?


harry b 05.16.15 at 12:25 pm

With your help maybe — how the hell do I add video to an audio file? (youtube says I have to do that before uploading to youtube).


marek 05.16.15 at 3:03 pm

The Imperial War Museum has solved the file streaming problem – they have this programme online at http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80012787

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