Posts Tagged ‘wedding’

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.”


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Second World War camp survivor and wife both die on 76th wedding anniversary

August 13th, 2014

The couple, who fell in love at first sight, met in Cardiff and married on August 5, 1938, three years before Mr Hartland was posted as a gunner to Singapore following the outbreak of war.

His regiment of 700 men surrendered to the Japanese the following year and Mr Hartland, like thousands of others, was tortured, starved and worked to the brink of death by his captors.

An estimated 13,000 people died building the railway, most of them buried near to where they fell along the unforgiving 250-mile route stretching to the Thailand border.

Mr Hartland, who was 11-stone when he left for Singapore, survived to the end of the war, by which time he weighed five stone and bore a scar on his leg – the mark of a poisoned bamboo shoot pushed through his leg by a camp guard who had caught him smoking banana leaves.

Having survived 15 different camps and been forced to dig his own grave, Mr Hartland was welcomed home to Cardiff in 1945 with a street party and a letter of thanks from King George.

Mrs Pearson said: “I don’t know how dad survived, mainly luck and determination, I think. There were 700 men in his regiment when they went out, but only four ever came back. Dad was the last to die from his regiment.

“In 1942, Mum got a letter from the colonel of the Coast Regiment saying Dad was missing, presumed dead. She had the papers to claim a widow’s pension.

“She absolutely refused to believe it. At the time, she was conscripted to work in a parachute factory in Cardiff Bay. She hated it: it was dirty and rat infested.

“But every day, on her way to work, mum would go into the church she passed and pray that dad would come home. She lived without him for four years, but she never believed he was dead.”

Last year, Mr Hartland said: “The worst thing was when we had to dig our own graves. We were due to be shot on the day the war ended.

“Then the ‘all-clear’ sounded. You can guess how I felt.”

Mrs Pearson, the couple’s daughter, was born in 1946 and the family moved to Wyken, Coventry in 1947, and Mr Hartland worked for Morris Engines as a factory foreman until he retired.

She said: “Dad was in hospital for a while after he came back from Burma, but neither of them cared. They were just so happy to be together again.

“They had an incredible marriage. They never, ever argued. Dad idolised Mum, and she adored him.

Mr Hartland died at Saint Martin’s Rest Home in Woodway Lane, Coventry, last week, hours after his wife was discharged from hospital with a broken leg.

Mrs Pearson, a mother of two, said: “We think he was waiting for her to come back to the room they shared before he died.

“Afterwards, Mum just kept saying, ‘I can’t live without him’. That night, Mum rang me.

“She was upset and I told her to think about all the happy times they’d shared in their marriage while she drifted off to sleep.

“She died at 1am, and I like to think that’s exactly what she was doing.

“It’s a perfect love story. I’m devastated they’re gone but so happy for them – they’ve never really had to live without one another.

“The undertaker said he had never seen anything like it, when he came to collect Mum. Paramedics said she died of a heart attack, literally of a broken heart.”

A joint funeral has been arranged for the pair, which will take place in Coventry on Tuesday.


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