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Double TWO Nostalgia: From Shirt Salesman to British Spy!
2017-11-09 BACK TO ARTICLES

Double TWO Nostalgia: From Shirt Salesman to British Spy!

In a special post, we remember a man who helped found Double TWO and became a war-time British spy helping to defeat the Nazi war machine!

The late Harry Beckhough had a very eventful life indeed!


When the government gave the Donner family (who themselves had fled Nazi occupied Austria) a permit to start a shirt making factory in an area of high unemployment, it was Wakefield that was chosen. Acting as translator and business advisor to Isaac Donner, Harry Beckhough helped get the family on a train to Wakefield to meet with the Ministry of Labour and the Midland Bank. He helped to setup the business and stayed to work with the company, becoming its first ever salesman.

Harry studied four languages whilst at school, English, French, German and Greek, as part of a deal he states he made with the Headmaster to escape expulsion! Mr Beckhough passed all four languages with flying colours, winning a place at Bristol University to study German.

In the 1930’s, during that degree course, Mr Beckhough took a trip to Germany where he witnessed Hitler’s rise to power at first-hand.

“I was terribly shocked by the atmosphere, with all these Nazi’s stomping around the place, “Harry would recall in memoirs,

“I witnessed books being burnt in the Marktplatz in Freiburg. This was at a time of British appeasement with Germany though. I sent numerous articles to national newspapers but not a single one got printed.”

Harry did find someone keen to listen though, none other than Winston Churchill who at the time was chancellor of Bristol University. Learning that Beckhough had just got back from Germany, Churchill was keen to know about his experiences.

Not surprisingly with his multi-lingual skills, Harry Beckhough was soon held in high regard as a translator, helping the Donner family and other evacuees from Nazi occupied countries to set up a new home in Britain.

After his initial work with the Wakefield Shirt Company, home of Double TWO Shirts, Harry Beckhough joined the war effort and quickly rose through the ranks. While serving in Northern India, close to the Afghan border, the military authorities soon spotted Harry’s linguistic skills and seconded him to the secretive world of Bletchley Park. The top secret base now famous for its role in cracking the German Enigma code.

After weeks spent training in the art of codebreaking, Harry was flown to a secret HQ in Cairo. At this point Bletchley Park had not yet cracked the Enigma code so Mr Beckhough and his team had to use every trick in the codebreakers’ book. The deciphered messages revealed Erwin Rommel, the German General complaining to Hitler that his tanks were running out of fuel.

After that success, Harry Beckhough was reassigned to a listening post in the Indian jungle near Calcutta.

“I was sent there because the intelligence we were getting about the Japanese was dreadful at the time.” Harry’s memoirs recall.

“I told my commanding officer that I couldn’t speak Japenese. He said ‘well you’re good at languages, you’ll pick it up,’ so, off I went to learn Japanese as quickly as possible!”

Mr Beckhough not only learnt Japanese, he also learnt to speak Urdu fluently so that he could get on with the locals, and transformed the levels of intelligence coming in throughout the war.

After the war, Harry worked for the government in Germany on the Denazification of the German Universities.

Harry Beckhough moved back to the UK in the early 50’s coming back to his old friends at Double TWO for a short time before setting up his own company, ‘Atkinson Rhodes,’ which made Men’s suits. They were central in creating Carnaby Street’s reputation as the centre of fashion in the swinging Sixties.

Whilst living in Yorkshire, and not happy with the local schools for his children, he founded a new one, Cundall Manor Prep School. A school which is still running to this day.

Harry Beckhough celebrated his 100th birthday in 2014. He was possibly the oldest and longest serving member of the Conservative Party having joined when he was 15 in 1929. He passed away aged 101.

His memories live on, documented in his book ‘Thinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ in which he recalls his life from student, to the founding of the Wakefield Shirt Company and Double TWO Shirts to code-breaker, textile manufacturer, teacher and political activist.

Harry and Double TWO Chairman, Ricky Donner always kept in touch and for his 100th birthday Harry proudly received specially embroidered Double TWO Shirts at his birthday party. Pictured above is Harry, alongside Ricky and his wife Nancy Donner.

At this time of year, as Remembrance Day approaches, all at Double TWO would like to pay tribute, not only to our very own Harry Beckhough, but to all those who have fought in wars for this country. From those close to home, relations of the very first Double TWO machinists during World War II, to all those who are serving in the military today, we salute you all.