Harry Baldwin will be 81 in July and is the oldest Albion survivor from the post-war era.

Doyen of a distinguished brotherhood, Baldwin was a remarkable goalkeeper by any standard. In season 1947-48 he saved five successive penalties, the sequence stretching to 12 out of 16.

Inevitably he was dubbed Albion's penalty king and, when the spot-stopping was at its height, Baldwin would be playfully joshed by Stan Willemse: "I'll give 'em away Harry, and you save 'em. Right?"

Football crowds, players, our entire way of life, was different 50-odd years ago and I wonder if everything was quite so jokey and light hearted among other members of the Albion team.

If the truth be known it is highly unlikely there was much skylarking towards the end of that particular season when Albion finished bottom and had to apply for re-election.

Hardly a palace of fun then but austere Britain was all about picking up the pieces after six years of war and the life of a professional footballer offered opportunites of job satisfaction denied to returning ex-servicemen.

Harry Baldwin and his fellow pros had a lot of catching up to do and remarkably Baldwin resumed playing football after being medically discharged from the Royal Navy.

The underlying theme of Harry's life is luck. Good luck and bags of it. His first slice came as a member of the Erdington Schools' side in his native Birmingham.

"I was asked if I would like a trial with Sutton Town who played in the Birmingham League. I was 15 and jumped at the chance.

"When I turned up they said I was a bit small for a goalkeeper and that a bigger lad was also being tried out and would I play wing half instead?

"OK, I said, happy to get a game. But early on the keeper was injured and I took his place and saved everything that came at me and I was signed."

Events happened quickly after that. A month later Harry was spotted by a West Brom scout.

Without more ado he went to the Hawthorns as an amateur and made his First Division debut at 17, by which time he had grown to 5ft 9ins.

That baptism was a local derby with Birmingham City before a 45,000 crowd in the Easter of 1938 and West Brom won 4-3.

Young Harry kept his place, signed pro but then fractured his collar bone and, at the end of the season, was released.

But Charlie Webb's spies were out and Albion's manager went to Birmingham and obtained Harry's signature.

Initially, Gordon Mee was preferred but, on September 2, the day before Britain declared war on Germany, Harry played his first Albion game in a 3-3 draw at Bristol City.

The fleet was already at its stations and very soon Harry volunteered for the Royal Navy hoping to be a PTI. Instead he was trained as a signaller. At the completion of his course he was put on draft for HMS Trinidad, a new light cruiser.

But, before joining the ship's company, Harry was selected to play for the Southern Command against the RAF.

HMS Trinidad was sunk on her maiden voyage and Harry thanked his lucky stars and still does to this day that he wasn't on that ill-fated departure from Devonport.

Instead, the war came to Harry and the inhabitants of the naval base.

He was badly shaken in a raid on Plymouth and spent six weeks in hospital, his nerves shattered.

He was barely able to walk for six months and felt so bad that he had given up all hope of playing football again.

No longer up to the fitness standards required, Harry returned to civilian life and joined the workforce at an engineering factory in Birmingham and it was there he met his wife Rose.

A whirlwind courtship followed and in three months they were married. Two years after hospitalisation Harry felt fit enough to play again and guested for Nottingham Forest, Northampton Town and Worcester City. At the end of the war Burnley expressed an interest but Harry returned to Brighton.

Charlie Webb had kept the home fires burning and put Jack Ball in for the first three games of the 1945-46 season after which Harry took over.

Albion competed in the Southern Section of Division Three (South), there being no promotion or relegations as football prepared for a resumption of full-scale League competition the following year.

Then business as usual signs went up all over the country and league players welcomed a jump of £3 in wages to £12 a week.

Harry got the nod for the first nine games, Ball took over the jersey for the rest of the season and so the friendly rivalry went on.

They were firm friends and, fittingly, they shared a benefit in 1950-51.

When Don Welsh took over as manager he soon stopped Harry commuting from Birmingham. "I used to catch a train at 9am getting to Hove at 1.25, play, and then race to catch the 5.25 back to London to be back home by midnight.

"Don Welsh insisted that I stayed overnight and then made it a condition that I moved to Brighton.

"The club fixed Rose and myself up with a house in Southwick and we lived there for five years."

Harry ended his league career with two seasons at Walsall and had a spell with Wellington Town where his footballing days were ended by a bad injury.

Diving at the feet, he almost suffered the loss of his left eye, needed 32 stitches in his face and had a cracked skull into the bargain.

So, at 35, Harry directed his skills to the machine tools business and became director of three companies, travelling the world as sales director.

"Life has been very kind to me. I've been lucky," said Harry from his Kenilworth home.

He knows how lucky he was to be chosen for that representative match when a sailor all those years ago. It saved Harry's life and when death hovered above Plymouth a few months later he was spared again.