Police Constable Henry Forrest from Leyland died aged 91 following cancer battle

Police Constable Henry Dacre Forrest from Leyland has died aged 91 at home with his family.

Wednesday, 21st December 2016, 12:49 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:11 pm

He had been fighting cancer for the last six years of his life, although only his close family members knew.

Harry, as he was called, spent most of his working life as a police officer and it had not been a dull career. In fact in one particularly dramatic event he disarmed a man who had already shot another officer in the leg, receiving a commendation for his actions.

His first-born daughter Lynn said: “Typically he said it was a lot of fuss about nothing and if he had been left to deal with it on his own no one would have been shot.”

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However Harry was probably best known for being a founding member of Leyland Swimming Club, even being awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the community in 1977.

Lynn said: “He couldn’t believe it when the letter came from 10 Downing Street. As far as he was concerned he was just doing something he loved.

“He gained a great deal of enjoyment out of seeing the club grow over the years.

“At a recent Gala on the announcement of his death the club members gave him a one minute standing ovation which some of his family were lucky enough to witness.”

Harry was born in Darwen in May 1925 to Thomas and Lillian Forrest and was one of four children.

He went to Darwen Grammar School until he was 14 years old at which point he began working at his aunt’s bakery.

When World War Two started he enlisted in the Royal Navy and it was the first ship he was assigned to, the D-Day Flag ship, which was destined to leave a lasting mark on his life.

After a couple of days loading torpedoes, longing to be on deck, Harry volunteered as a stretcher bearer.

“For two weeks after the action the ship patrolled the Channel searching for bodies,” said Lynn. “Funerals were held every afternoon on board.

“The ship was then torpedoed but managed to limp back into Portsmouth harbour. He was 19 years old.”

Harry was then sent to Sierra Leone which was a safe harbour for ships which needed work and restocking. There he helped to restock the French submarines and got his first taste of life in Africa.

When the war drew to a close he was dropped off at Ullapool in Scotland. However transitioning into civvy street was a bit of a shock as Harry had settled into Navy life.

Unable to settle working back at his aunt’s bakery he moved to a factory which had just invented Perspex and was employing a lot of ex-servicemen. It was there that one of his colleagues suggested a career in the police.

After joining Manchester Police he never looked back. Another big change in his life was getting married to Hazel and three years later their first child Lynn was born.

It was when Lynn became ill that a Doctor suggested a move to the countryside and a work transfer allowed him to relocate to Leyland in 1957.

Lynn said: “He always said what a great decision it was to come here.”

Initially Harry covered his beat on bicycle but as the area grew he progressed to a motorbike and then a car.

Two other children, Julie and Geoff followed and Lynn told the Guardian: “He was a brilliant father and was never happier than when he could do something to help his family.

“He never stopped helping his children, even when he turned 91. He had boundless energy and couldn’t sit down for more than 20 minutes before getting restless unless football was on - he supported Blackburn Rovers.

“Even after mum passed away the house and garden were always immaculate. He had a very happy outlook on life and loved being with family and friends.”

When his wife Hazel developed cancer he nursed her until her death and when his older sister needed help he moved her up from Sussex and cared for her until she moved into a nursing home where he would visit her daily.

Up until he died Harry was able to drive his car and would regularly go to whist nights with his friend Joan.

Lynn said: “He will leave a huge hole the lives of all who were close to him.

“After his death 163 people went on Facebook with remembrances and condolences.

“Police HQ sent a senior representative to the funeral and one of the recipients of his cup also attended, as did the new president of Leyland Swimming Club.

“As was said at his funeral he was a one off and the world needs more like him.”