Posts Tagged ‘they’

Elderly neighbours discover they both took part in the same WW2 mission

December 9th, 2015

George Rhodes, 99, and Graham Brown, 93, live in the same block of flats, but have only just found out one inadvertently helped the other during an Allied mission.

Before Mr Rhodes and his fellow Army soldiers entered a railway yard, the Royal Air Force were called to drop bombs on the city to clear their way.

One of the pilots who dropped the bombs was Mr Brown – making sure Mr Rhodes and his men could get through. Both men ended up living next door to each other in Wells, Somerset.

George Rhodes in the army

Mr Rhodes said: “Graham and his boys did a good job. The place was ruined. All the rails had been bombed so much that they were all curled up.

“No train was going to run on those again and the bombs meant that we could enter.”

An army sergeant, Mr Rhodes signed up during his university days in 1942 – where he was sent to the Middle East, north Africa and Italy before the bombing raids in Europe.

While Mr Brown was the pilot of a Wellington bomber. Graz was liberated in 1945 and the two returned to normal lives after the war.

Mr Rhodes became a mortician in the pathology department of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, married Ruby and had one son.

Mr Brown returned to Bristol University and completed his engineering degree started at the beginning of the war and then became the manager of Underwood Quarry in Wells.

After finding out that their jobs in the war were dependent on each, the two are best of friends and share an apartment building together.

Mr Rhodes added: “Graham is a great bloke and we talk about the war, thank heavens he and his aircrew were around to support us at that time.”

Soldier reunited with wallet lost in Austria 70 years ago
War veteran reunited with dog tag after 69 years

World War Two

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Priceless Japanese artefacts taken by tourist who thought they were souvenirs

March 10th, 2015

During the war, the island of Okinawa was forced to use the Japanese language the rest of the country used rather than their own dialect for the purposes of unification.

Anyone heard using their native tongue would be forced to wear the wooden plaque around their neck.

Museum director Peter Roberts-Taira said: “I’m very, very relieved.

“It’s the first time these items have ever been out of Japan, so the museums themselves were taking a risk.

“It was Saturday, right at the very end of the day when everyone was packing away that we realised they had gone.

“One was a wooden plaque with some Japanese on it, the other was a maths book which children had in their classrooms.

“You wouldn’t know they were valuable to look at, so maybe somebody just though they could take them.

“The message went out wider to people who asked their friends, and apparently they discovered a friend of a friend had thought those things were possible to take away as souvenirs.

“They are irreplaceable, if they are gone, they are gone forever. It’s very, very special to have them at all.”

The artefacts are now being returned to the Peace Memorial Museum in Okinawa.

World War Two

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.


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

World War Two

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