Posts Tagged ‘hero’s’

Children Saved from the Nazis: a Hero’s Story, review: ‘a humbling story’

February 4th, 2016

The Children Saved from the Nazis: a Hero’s Story (BBC One) was an uplifting programme. Shown to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and to commemorate the death of Sir Nicholas Winton last year (at the age of 106), this was the inspiring if desperately sad story of how one man took a stand in the face of overwhelming odds and saved the lives of hundreds of Czechoslovakian children from Nazi persecution.

Nicholas Winton, seen here celebrating his 105th birthday

Visiting Prague in 1938, ahead of the German invasion, 29-year-old stockbroker Winton found himself besieged by Jewish parents begging him to take their children to safety. It was only his singular efforts and implacable refusal to be defeated by the hundreds of official doors slammed in his face that eventually led the Home Office to support his plan to transport as many of the children as possible across Europe, and convinced British families to take them in.

“The rest of the world closed its eyes, its ears, its heart and its gates,” said narrator Joe Schlesinger, 87, one of the 669 children saved by Winton – with unavoidably topical echoes.

An undated photo of Nicholas Winton with one of the children he rescued

At its most heart wringing, this was a film honouring the sacrifice and pain of parents who sent their children into the unknown to save them, while themselves facing a terrible fate. At its most hopeful, it recalled the full and productive lives lived by those rescued, and the fact that for decades Winton never spoke of, or sought any acknowledgement for, his heroic efforts.

Even his wife knew nothing of his heroics until, 40 years on, she stumbled across a trunk in the attic and the story came out – thanks largely to a feature on Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life TV show in 1988.

A humbling story, all the more powerful for this unadorned retelling.


World War Two

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

World War Two hero’s wedding ring returned 70 years after it was lost

March 13th, 2015

The ring was presented to one of his surviving relatives, his 92-year-old sister, Dorothy Webster, along with a fuel gauge from the bomber and a rock from the mountain into which it crashed.

The inside of the gold ring is inscribed with the names John and Joyce – Flt Sgt Thompson had married a Londoner called Joyce Mozley in June 1944, before being sent off on active service. She remarried after the war but died in 1995.

His Halifax, part of 148 Squadron, crashed about 25 miles north of Tirana, the Albanian capital, while delivering weapons and other supplies to Albanian partisans fighting the Nazis.

In 1960 a local man, Jaho Cala, found the ring while out collecting wood in the mountains.

Nervous about informing the Communist authorities of the Hoxha regime, he took it home and kept it hidden for decades.

He later revealed its existence to his son, Xhemil Cala, instructing him to try to find out who it belonged to.

His son, who became a police officer, wore the ring for years and made several attempts to find out who it belonged to, but without success.

Two years ago he contacted the British and American embassies in Tirana, guessing that it may have belonged to an Allied airman flying missions over Albania.

In October, a team of British and US officials located the remains of the aircraft on the sides of a 6,000ft high mountain.

The British embassy were eventually able to confirm that the ring belonged to Sgt Thompson, who came from Darley Dale in Derbs. The embassy contacted his family and the relatives of the six other RAF crew members.

“Seventy years we’ve waited. We can’t believe that we’re here today celebrating this after all this time,” Mrs Webster, who was a year younger than her brother, told The Associated Press. “My father would have been thrilled to pieces with it all.”

She said she was “overwhelmed” to receive the ring and other items and that she still remembered her brother “very well, as if it were yesterday.”

She was accompanied by four of his nephews and other family members at a ceremony at the Albanian defence ministry in Tirana.

“Your brother helped to liberate my country. He will never be forgotten,” Mimi Kodheli, the defence minister, told her.

“All these years it has been a story of loss,” said one of her sons, Alan Webster. “We now know almost everything that happened. It’s a sense of closure. We know where John is. He’s over there in the mountain.”

His brother, Brian Webster, said: “Our grandfather and grandmother never locked the house in Matlock – (they were) waiting for their missing son.”

Another relative, Philip Thompson, said the family had struggled to obtain information from the War Office about Sgt Thompson’s fate “because he was part of a secret operation in Albania.”or a long time the family believed that he had crashed in Poland.

Presenting the ring, Xhemil Cala said he was relieved to have fulfilled his father’s wish that it be returned to the airman’s family. “I will go to his grave and say rest in peace for your dying wish has been fulfilled,” he said.

Arthur Gilbert, 91, a childhood friend of the RAF flight engineer, told the Matlock Mercury last year: “He was a cheery little lad and he came from a big family. It was very sad to hear that he had never returned from the war.”


World War Two

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

Eindhoven: Joe Cattini receives hero’s welcome for a second time, 70 years on

September 23rd, 2014

The organisers of the trip said the people of Eindhoven wanted to thank the Allied soldiers for their freedom.

The veterans, who arrived back in the UK on Tuesday, spent two weeks in Holland as “guests of honour”. They toured museums, met serving soldiers and revisited some of the places they had stayed.

Also on the trip was Denys Hunter, with whom he was reunited during the D-Day celebrations.

Mr Cattini and Mr Hunter became the faces of this year’s D-Day anniversary commemorations when they were picture moments after being reunited for the first time since they took part in the landings on the Normandy beaches 70 years ago.

In Eindhoven, they were also invited on to the pitch ahead of football match between PSV Eindhoven and SC Cambuur, where three paratroopers jumped from 1,500 feet holding football shirts which were then presented to the veterans.

Mr Cattini and Mr Hunter were both part of the 86th Hertfordshire Yeomanry Field Regiment RA, which was part of the British advance through Europe and which helped free Eindhoven from Nazi occupation.


Joe Cattini and Denys Hunter spent two weeks in Holland as ‘guests of honour’

The city was liberated when an American paratrooper from the 101st Airborne division advancing from the north made contact with British ground troops, advancing from the south, at a church.

The American paratroopers had been dropped at Son, a village north of Eindhoven, on September 17 and advanced to Eindhoven the next day. Their job was to secure the four bridges over the River Dommel ready for the British ground forces to advance.

The British troops, who had entered the Netherlands from the south, liberated the town of Valkenswaar on September 17. They spent their night there before continuing on to Eindhoven the next day, where they were welcomed as heroes.

One American trooper recalled being asked for his autograph by a woman, so relieved occupation was over.

Mr Cattini said he remembered driving into Eindhoven and six young women jumping in the back of his truck.

It was the first major city in Holland to be liberated by troops on the way to Arnham as part of the doomed Operation Market Garden.

However Eindhoven’s jubilation was short lived. The following day, on September 19, while the city was still celebrating, German Luftwaffe planes appeared above overhead and launched a bombing campaign. In total, 227 civilians were killed.

But Eindhoven has commemorated the liberation each year on September 18 since 1945.

This year, a “liberation torch” was carried by cyclists and runners from Bayeux in Normandy, along the same route the Allies used in 1944, culminating in a torch lit procession to the Town Hall Square where the veterans and guests were received.


World War Two

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

Battle of Britain hero’s medals to go under the hammer

April 14th, 2014

Air Cdre Berry was so highly esteemed that he was one of few airmen chosen to lead Winston Churchill’s coffin at his funeral 20 years after World War Two.

He was awarded the CBE for his services along with the Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Flying Cross with Bar.

The medal group, along with his log books covering the war and several aviation maps, are now being sold for the first time at auction.

They are tipped to sell for a six figure sum, not least because they belonged to one of the so-called “Few” who Churchill famously credited with saving Britain for a Nazi invasion.

In a speech to the Commons on August 20, 1940, the wartime Prime Minister said: “The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion.

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Oliver Pepys, a medals expert at London auctioneers Spink, said: “Ronald Berry was one of the Few who distinguished themselves in World War II.

“He did have such an amazing tally of kills and probable kills.

“His medals are very significant, in the fact you have a DSO and a DFC with Bar – three superb gallantry awards for World War II.

“The DFC is for the Battle of Britain. He was very much one of the Few who stopped Operation Sea Lion – Hitler’s plan to invade Britain from happening.

“The medals have never appeared on the market before.

“Prices for gallantry medals are very strong at the moment and now is as good a time as any to sell.

“It is a very good fighter pilot’s group but with these it is more about the man behind the medals.”

Air Cdre Berry, who died in 2000 aged 84, was born in Hull and joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1937.

Two months after the outbreak of the war he was sent to Montrose in Scotland to help protect the airfield there and served in 603 Squadron.

Days later he was involved in one of the earliest interceptions of the war when he damaged a Heinkel III bomber.

He went on to shoot down a Junkers 88 bomber into the North Sea and have three shared kills during his time in Scotland.

Due to increasing RAF casualties, 603 Squadron was sent to south east England on August 1940 during the height of the Battle of Britain.

In September 1940 Air Cdre Berry was involved in up to four dog-fights a day and accounted for 14 different enemy aircraft in that time, earning him his first DFC.

After the Battle of Britain he was one of only eight out of the 24 original pilots from 603 Squadron left.

He was promoted from Sergeant Pilot to Squadron Leader and took part in a convoy patrols as well as providing air cover for the disastrous Dieppe Raid in 1942.

His 81 Squadron was the first to land in French North Africa in November 1942 where he had a farcical exchange with a French commander, with each claiming the other as his prisoner.

He continued to wreak havoc with the Luftwaffe, claiming more kills.

By the end of the Tunisian campaign in May 1943, he had accumulated a total of 14 enemy aircraft destroyed, 10 shared destroyed, nine probable kills, 17 damaged and seven destroyed on the ground.

After the war he was in charge of the Air Fighting Development Unit at West Raynham in Norfolk, made OBE in 1946 and CBE in 1965.

He retired with wife Nancy to Hornsea, East Yorkshire.

His medals are being sold in London on April 24.


World War Two

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

Archives

Categories