A number of people contacted me and asked about the stories I published on Remembrance Sunday. People wanted to know more about the people I included, and how I knew them. The easiest way to explain is to connect each of them to their living relatives.
These are their stories.
Fred and Arthur
Arthur is my Dad, and Fred Wheatley was his cousin, although Fred was quite a bit older. My Dad was a massive steam train enthusiast as a child and grew up near the old goods station at Gilesgate. He was fascinated by Fred’s stories of the railways, and wrote an article about him for a railway magazine. Fred is on the left of the photo with the earth mover he drove on D-Day
Bert and Lily
Albert Hall was my Great Uncle, one of my Gran’s older Brothers. He didn’t have kids, but his brothers and sisters had lots. Annie, my Gran, had 2 children, 7 grand children, and I lose count of how many great grandchildren. She died aged 103, and got her telegram from the Queen. This is her with Lily my daughter introducing her to Sachin, her baby brother. Lily is Albert’s Great Grand Niece, she is currently studying Medicine at Exeter University.
Borislav and Natasha
This is Borislav after the war with the Yugoslav Communist Party, Natasha is his grand-daughter. Natasha was born in Kosovo, moved to LA, went to Liverpool University which is where I first met her. She currently lives in Barcelona. The middle photo is her in the uniform of the Young Pioneers, the Communist Party Youth Corps.
Snowy and Howell
Howell is one of my oldest friends and Snowy is his grandfather. The resemblance is uncanny. Howell followed his grandfathers steps to Iceland where he lives in Reykjavik and works as an archeologist
Bill, Henry and Ted
Sgt William Pearson’s Grandson Paul is my brother in law. Paul never knew his Grandad, and when his Gran died he asked if there was anything he could have as a memento. He was given a leather pouch containing a Japanese flag which belonged to Hiromasa. I helped him translate it, and apply to the MOD for his Grandad’s war records. Henry and Teddy are his sons, and my nephews.
John, Jon and Sachin
Lft John Chadwick is my great great great great etc. The Victoria Cross was introduced to recognise the bravery of soldiers in the Crimean war, and every VC every awarded is minted from the metal of a Russian gun captured at Sevastopol. My family are pretty predictable in their choice of names, and every generation contains multiple Johns, Richards and Roberts. My son’s middle name is Jon, like me.
Constanty and Helena
Constanty lived to be 96, and had a long and happy life. His daughter Helena was at University with me. This is Helena with her 4 children, Constanty’s grandchildren. Helena lives in Hampshire, a part- time primary school teacher, school governor and an Associate Lecturer with the Open University.She is very proud of her Polish heritage and tries to carry on the traditions she enjoyed as a child, sometimes being met with bewilderment from her own children.
The only person I don’t have an update for his Hiromasa. I am sure he died in the Burmese jungle, and as a teenage conscript I don’t know what happened to his family. This is the flag that he carried with him, and judging by the holes he wrapped around himself for luck when the final moment came. Even though I never knew him I do think of him in remembrance Sunday.
War is a terrible business, and to fight on there has to be some motivation that makes you endure the unendurable.
All of them fought for different reasons. Some wanted to be heroes, some despised heroism and instead held service and duty as higher values. Some were committed anti-facists, some fought for King and Country, or for Empire, or for the survival of their nation and their way of life.
But all of them, I think, shared the belief that their sacrifice and hardship would help create a better world for those who came after them.
And, I would like to think looking at these photos that they were right in that belief.