Bert Levy was born in 1897. When asked about his education he answers: 'my real education was in the school of hard knocks'. He was a stoker in the Merchant Service in 1916 and early 1917. He returned to seafaring in 1939 and early 1940 but when there were no submarines about, the sea did not interest him. His own notes read: 'Mexico, 1920-1, and some gun-running; Nicaragua, 1926, some gun-running'. He served in the International Brigade in Spain, joining early in 1937, and becoming an officer in the machine-gun company of the British Battalion. He was captured and spent six months in General Franco's prisons. He joined the staff of the Osterley Park School for the Home Guard in August, 1940, also lecturing to the Home Guard at the War Office No. 1 School.