Harry Schulman MBE: Innovative Norfolk farmer and soldier on the infamous Burma Railway

Soldier, churchwarden and pioneering farmer Harry Schulman died peacefully early yesterday morning at his north Norfolk home, a fortnight after his 100th birthday.

A special peal of 5,040 changes was rung on November 3 at St Mary's Church, North Creake, which was recorded by his two daughters because their father was not well enough to attend. He had been churchwarden for more than 50 years.

Mr Schulman was a leading member of Norfolk County Council for more than 20 years. On retirement from public service, he had been made an MBE, as had his late wife, Peggy.

He had always wanted to farm since the age of five and despite initial opposition from his father, he read agriculture at Cambridge.

In 1933, farming was in recession, so he went to India to run a tea garden on a five-year con-tract, where he also joined the Indian Territorial Army as a trooper in the Assam Valley Light Horse.

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But in 1937, he returned home and scraped together funds to buy Abbey Farm, North Creake, which had been owned by Christ's College, Cambridge, since Henry IV's wife Sarah gave it as a foundation present in the early 15th century.

Within a year or two, he was making �1,000 a year as farming's fortunes improved after decades of depression.

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He tried to farm traditionally with livestock and the Norfolk four-course rotation, but enjoyed great success by using the latest techniques, including combine harvesters and artificial manures to boost yields.

As the war approached, Mr Schulman left his farm and re-joined his unit.

He transferred to the Scots Guards, enlisting as a guardsman destined for Finland.

He spent three weeks in France teaching 300 volunteers to ski as part of this proposed special alpine force.

However Finland fell, so he was volunteered to join 1 Commando, which went to France after Dunkirk to find members of the 51st Division trying to cross the Channel near Boulogne.

When he heard that the 5th battalion the Royal Norfolk Regiment was being posted to Malaya, he wrote to the CO and re-joined.

'So, of course I got out of the fat and into the fire,' he later wrote in his unpublished autobiography.

Later, Capt Schulman, who commanded the battalion's rearguard as Japanese forces advanced through Malaya, became a prisoner-of-war.

He survived three years on the railway of death in Burma and returned home to marry his fianc�e.

And again his farming prospered as he also grew vegetables for the London market and later seed crops.

He leaves two daughters, Prudence Finch and Sarah de Chair, who is show manager of the Royal Norfolk Show.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at St Mary's Church, North Creake, on Friday, December 3, 2.30pm.

Michael Pollitt

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