Posts Tagged ‘home’

Familes of WWII veterans to hear messages home for first time in 70 years

December 24th, 2015

Designed partly as propaganda to show cheery soldiers having the time of their lives, they were carefully choreographed to send personal messages back to their home towns.

More than 600 examples of the films, lost for decades, were rediscovered in the basement of Manchester Town Hall during a refurbishment of the building years ago.

They will now be broadcast for the first time since the Second World War in a new Channel 4 programme, entitled Calling Blighty.

Channel 4 and the North West Film Archive have already put out on appeal seeking veterans who served in India, Burma and Sri Lanka and their families, with the hopes of including their reaction in a final broadcast.

Mr H Drinkwater, a Leading Aircraftsman in the RAF asks his wife to keep his bed warm for him The reels include footage from Mr H Drinkwater, a Leading Aircraftsman in the RAF, who tells his family: “I hope you are all right at home. I’m not doing so bad out here. It’s a bit warm. Getting decent grub, but missing the old fish and chips and a pint now and then, you know.”

With a cheeky look to camera, he tells his wife: “Anyway, keep the bed warm until I get home and we’ll get up them stairs. Cheerio”

Sam Marshall, a Gunner from the 21/8 Rajput HAA Regiment, told his family back in Manchester: “Well mother, Sam calling. I hope you’re quite well and in the pink.”

Other men are seen playing darts, polishing their specs and larking around in the background.

The messages are just two of hundreds recorded between 1944 and 1946 by the Directorate of Army Welfare in India.

At the time, British troops were stationed in India, Burma and Sri Lanka, fighting on even as Europe celebrated the end of war in what has become known as The Forgotten Army.

Without the possibility of home leave, and in an atmosphere where disease was rife and morale low, the Ministry of Defence embarked on a scheme to boost them with filmed messages to home.

Taking up to three months to arrive, with some servicemen dying before the messages got home, families and friends were invited to local cinemas to catch a glimpse of them.

These particular films were found on 25 reels in rusting film canisters in the basement of Manchester Town Hall, with paperwork detailing the names, ranks, regiments and serial numbers of participants surviving alongside it.

Steve Hawley, professor at the Manchester School of Art, said: “I saw an amazing film of servicemen in the second World War speaking to their loved ones, and mentioned this to Marion Hewitt, the Director of the North West Film Archive.

“To my delight, she told me that three decades previously, a pile of rusting film canisters had been discovered in the basement of Manchester Town Hall during refurbishment, and these were about to be thrown out when they were rescued by the Archive.”

Calling Blighty will air in early 2016 on Channel 4. The film is produced by Oxford Scientific Films.


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UK’s biggest Second World War air raid shelter reveals life on Home Front

April 10th, 2015

Howard Green, the museum’s duty officer, said: “Chestergate, the street outside was busiest east-west routet the town; even at the levels of 1930s traffic it was too narrow. The long term was to cover over the River Mersey, which is where the M62 is.

“But in the interim, they decided to buy properties there and demolish them for widening and straightening.

“A lot of the older properties backing into the cliff had cellars and it seemed a pity to seal them up. There were things to be done, so there was talk of joining them together as an underground car park.

“The other thing was that in the lead up to the Second World War, local authorities had to establish public air raid shelters in towns.

“So they decided to join cellars together, get the grant for the air raid shelters, then they could get the money back twice by letting out the parking spaces.”

The biggest purpose built air raid shelter in the UK attracted terrified victims of the blitz from across Cheshire and Lancashire at the height of the war. The tunnels, dug into the sandstone cliffs running alongside the river Mersey in Stockport were state of the art in 1930s Britain, with electric lighting and flush toilets, and could hold up to 6,500 people.

Unfortunately for the council at the time, the car park proved impossible after the engineering survey.

Mr Green said: “The official capacity was 3,850, so outside they painted 4,000, but what they didn’t advertise was that they thought they could squeeze twice as many in if needs be.

“They were used extensively by people from Manchester and Salford, and even as far as Eccles.

“Stockport was less of a target, and the underground shelters were a particularly safe place, so they came on a regular basis, what they did was introduce season tickets, they were issued to locals, although you could write in if you had difficult circumstances. We still have some letters from people in Manchester who’d been bombed out several times.

The biggest purpose built air raid shelter in the UK attracted terrified victims of the blitz from across Cheshire and Lancashire at the height of the war. The tunnels, dug into the sandstone cliffs running alongside the river Mersey in Stockport were state of the art in 1930s Britain, with electric lighting and flush toilets, and could hold up to 6,500 people.

“It was really only a way of damping down demand, nobody was denied entrance in an alert.

“In the winter of 1940 and 41, it went up to 6,500, with another four sets of tunnel shelters. Once they had the format right, it was something that could be done elsewhere in the town, where they could get into red sandstone.

“If you know where to look you can see the blocked up tunnels of one set of shelters on the other side, where the M62 goes through Stockport; further back into hillside, you can see the tunnel cut short and bricked off.

“People are always surprised by is the extent of them, and just how much thought and planning went into them, we’ve had German visitors saying our government did nothing as elaborate.

“There were first aid posts, electric lighting and flush toilets, which people living in back to back cottages of town centres wouldn’t have had at home.”


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War veteran who fled care home to attend D day celebrations honoured by home city

July 23rd, 2014

Asked why he travelled across to Normandy, Mr Jordan, a former local borough councillor and mayor of Hove, said: ”My thoughts were with my mates who had been killed.

”I was going across to pay my respects. I was a bit off course but I got there.”

He added: ”Britain is a smashing country and the people are smashing, and if you have to do something a bit special then they are worth every effort.”

Brighton and Hove City Council officials said the honorary alderman title is a mark of respect for the work and commitment given by a former councillor.

Mr Jordan’s honour was to mark his ”exceptional contribution to the work of the newly-formed Brighton and Hove Council and the former Hove Borough Council and to the community”.

Mr Fitch described Mr Jordan – affectionately known as Bernie – as ”a hero and an inspiration to all ages”.

He said: ”It’s grey power. What it shows is that where you have commitment and where you are determined, you can find a way, and that’s what Bernie has done.”

Mr Jordan hit headlines globally when he disappeared from his care home to embark on his cross-Channel trip to the D-Day anniversary events in Normandy wearing his war medals under his grey mac.

His disappearance sparked a police search on June 5 and his whereabouts was only uncovered when a younger veteran phoned later that night to say he had met Mr Jordan and he was safe.

Last month he was inundated with more than 2,500 birthday cards from around the world following his adventure to Normandy.


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And they all came home from the world wars…

July 22nd, 2014

But in a few weeks, a plaque presented to each Doubly Thankful village will be officially unveiled to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. Only now are they coming together to celebrate.

Tony Collett, 83, the son of Sgt Major Collett, who has lived in Upper Slaughter his entire life, remembers painting the names of those who had returned on a roll of honour with his father in 1945. It is still hanging in the village hall, alongside one from the First World War. “I didn’t really appreciate the magnitude of what it all meant,” he says. “That’s only really come about in recent years. My father served in Mesopotamia [Iraq] and never really spoke about the First World War. On Remembrance Day we would always go to the memorial in Lower Slaughter (it lost 15 men in the Great War). Even though our village never lost anybody, it has always been important to remember those who did.”

There are some 16,000 villages across England and Wales and each gave their sons to the Great War. The formation of Pals’ Battalions, to supplement Lord Kitchener’s volunteer army, meant whole villages signed up to serve together. As a result, a generation from a single place could be laid to waste in a burst of machine gun fire.

But at the end of the war, when news came in censored bulletins and communication was limited, the extent of sacrifice among individual, often deeply rural, communities was not clear. It was only in the Thirties, when the author and staunch patriot Arthur Mee travelled the country to compile his King’s England Volumes, that he identified what he called the “thankful villages”, 32 places where everybody came home from the Great War, a figure that has now been upgraded to 51. Of these, according to the Royal British Legion and historians Norman Thorpe, Rod Morris and Tom Morgan who have conducted extensive research, just 13 were also spared any losses in the Second World War.

Some, such as Herodsfoot in Cornwall, have a memorial honouring the dozen or so names of those who served and returned, including Private Herbert Medland, whose daughter Vera Sandercock still lives in the village. But the evidence is not always set in stone. In Catwick in East Yorkshire, 30 men left to fight in the First World War but, before departing, each nailed a coin on to the wall inside the blacksmith’s forge, near a lucky horseshoe. During the Second World War another 30 coins were nailed on. None ever needed to be taken down and the mementos have stayed in the village ever since.

With interest piqued by centenary celebrations, more communities without war memorials are coming forward and the number of Doubly Thankful villages could end up being higher.

One recent claim comes from Holywell Lake in Somerset, a county that boasts two doubly thankful villages, despite the Somerset Light Infantry losing 4,756 soldiers in the Great War. “In Somerset we’ve always been very proud of king and country and when the war broke out we wanted to go and fight,” says Roger Duddridge, county chairman of the Royal British Legion. “On some memorials I’ve seen the names of whole families that were killed: three or four brothers at a time. It’s only recently that these villages where everybody survived have started to come to attention and it’s so gratifying when you find one. This is something that has taken 100 years to piece together.”

The hamlet of Woolley, near Bath, reached by narrow hedgerow-flanked roads and sheltered by Solsbury Hill, contributed 13 young men to the First World War and 13 to the Second. Here too, the magnitude of everybody surviving both never truly sunk in. “When I was growing up we just didn’t appreciate the significance of it,” says Margaret Foster, 71, who still lives in the house where she was born.

Five of her cousins – all brothers – fought in the Second World War. One, Dennis Kurle, is still alive, aged 92. “This village is so small that you didn’t really appreciate the rarity that everybody returned alive. Families knew their own had come back from the war and so were a bit removed from the true scale of it all.”

Some of the survivors of the trenches bore hidden scars; many more suffered all too visible wounds. Of those who returned, 1.75 million had suffered some disability and half were permanently disabled.

Mrs Foster says the residents of Woolley tried to help its sons to forget their experience of the horror – apart from a plaque put up in All Saints’ Church, there was no mention of war. “All the soldiers who returned were marked by what they had seen,” she says, “especially the First World War veterans. When war broke out and they signed up, they just thought they were tough boys, but they had no idea what they were going to face.”

The village, which has never hosted a Remembrance Day, will join the centenary commemorations in the first week of August with a small ceremony alongside the other Doubly Thankful villages to honour their good fortune. But for the grace of God, they too would have had a stone cross to bear of their own.

THE FORTUNATE FEW VILLAGES

Cornwall: Herodsfoot

Gloucestershire: Upper Slaughter

Herefordshire: Middleton-on-the-Hill

Lancashire: Nether Kellet

Lincolnshire: Flixborough

Lincolnshire: High Toynton

Nottinghamshire: Cromwell

Pembrokeshire: Herbrandston

Somerset: Stocklinch

Somerset: Woolley

Suffolk South: Elmham St Michael

East Yorkshire: Catwick

Cardiganshire: Llanfihangel y Creuddyn


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War veteran who fled care home to Normandy D Day celebrations honoured

July 17th, 2014

Asked why he travelled across to Normandy, Mr Jordan, a former local borough councillor and mayor of Hove, said: ”My thoughts were with my mates who had been killed.

”I was going across to pay my respects. I was a bit off course but I got there.”

He added: ”Britain is a smashing country and the people are smashing, and if you have to do something a bit special then they are worth every effort.”

Brighton and Hove City Council officials said the honorary alderman title is a mark of respect for the work and commitment given by a former councillor.

Mr Jordan’s honour was to mark his ”exceptional contribution to the work of the newly-formed Brighton and Hove Council and the former Hove Borough Council and to the community”.

Mr Fitch described Mr Jordan – affectionately known as Bernie – as ”a hero and an inspiration to all ages”.

He said: ”It’s grey power. What it shows is that where you have commitment and where you are determined, you can find a way, and that’s what Bernie has done.”

Mr Jordan hit headlines globally when he disappeared from his care home to embark on his cross-Channel trip to the D-Day anniversary events in Normandy wearing his war medals under his grey mac.

His disappearance sparked a police search on June 5 and his whereabouts was only uncovered when a younger veteran phoned later that night to say he had met Mr Jordan and he was safe.

Last month he was inundated with more than 2,500 birthday cards from around the world following his adventure to Normandy.


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