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Meeting on 12 November 2015: 9 members attended
Members Forum A family member in WW1 or WW2 - Home or abroad
Although only 9 members could attend almost everyone had a tale to contribute, bringing photos, paperwork or other objects to illustrate the stories of their family member in wartime. One was a speaker’s father. He was born in 1906 and had been in the Royal Navy for a decade before World War Two broke out. He spent most of the war on the Arctic convoys escorting merchant ships across from Iceland to the Kola Inlet in Russia. On one occasion having delivered the goods they collected gold in payment to take back to Scapa Flow. As an Instrument Artificer he was involved with a brand new radar system. This may have been why he was Mentioned in Dispatches - further research needs to be done at Kew. Another member’s uncle had been 4th officer on a hospital ship, travelling close to the coast to avoid minefields, that was wrecked just off Whitby Harbour in WW1. In the heavy seas many lost their lives and the local manual lifeboats could not reach the ship. The Tynemouth Lifeboat was motorised - it took 9 hours to arrive. After this tragedy the RNLI worked to get all its craft motorised. The Tynemouth Coastguard museum has details and photos of the incident. A great -uncle in WW1 was a dispatch rider. When an abscess kept him in hospital for 6 weeks he started a diary which a cousin has since transcribed. It gave details of some of his trips, the dangers of strafing and bombardment, the billets ranging from chateaux in sunshine to woodland in downpours and the joy of a primus stove sent from home that enabled him to have his first hot wash in many weeks. Years after the war a box of negatives was found in a French farmhouse and because many of the soldiers were Australian it appeared on a TV programme there. It included a picture of all the dispatch riders - including this great-uncle. WW1 was fought well beyond the Somme. One family member fought in battles and skirmishes alongside Italian troops against Austrian troops in the Italian Alp foothills. He died in 1918 and his is one of the 4 names on the war memorial in the tiny village of Stapleton in Cumbria Another speaker had not known her grandfather had been a conscientious objector in WW1 until her father asked her to look for the tribunal papers relating to exemptions. The papers for many areas have not survived but Middlesex ones did, recording the hearing and the appeal. When sorting papers prior to her mother’s house move, an envelope was found with photos from the camp in Newhaven that he, and other objectors, were kept in during the war. A newspaper cutting of an interview in 1963 was the basis of a talk about the speaker’s mother’s cousin. As a 20 year old trooper in the push for Caen in 1944 he had been paralysed by a mortar that cut into his spinal cord. He was invalided out as 100% disabled and after a while at home he moved south to a Star and Garter Home. He had found it difficult in his home town constantly being offered help and having to be grateful. At the Home he had like -minded friends and was encouraged to be as independent as possible. He developed a watch and clock mending and servicing business. He died in 1981. The last tale was of the speaker’s father who was a Japanese prisoner of war from 1942-45. She knew very little about him as he died in the early 1950s. In the 1990s more information came to light, partly through the FEPOW (Far East Prisoners of War) Association. A notice in their journal resulted in letters from 2 fellow POWs who had brief memories of him and who helped decipher the abbreviations on his Service record. He learnt to speak and write Japanese in the camps and after the war had ended he was asked to go to Japan with the British & Commonwealth Occupying Force to help in the repatriation and other duties. One souvenir, which the speaker brought along, was a small, unremarkable looking rose printed cup and saucer. However, the bases are stamped “Made in Occupied Japan”.