We were contacted by Johns son Ron in 2009. His father had recently been taken to hospital and was obviously feeling down with being ill and away from home, but had also been thinking about what he and his mates had been through during the war and what a waste it was, especially as it appeared it had all been forgotten.
Ron asked if we could visit his dad in uniform for a chat, we readily agreed.
When Ron mentioned it to his dad, he wasn't too keen, He had a few choice words which was understandable but none the less agreed for us to come along.
We attended the hospital and Ron introduced us to his Mum and Dad, it just so happened it was their 65th wedding anniversary. John eyed us suspiciously. We explained what we did and that we had both served in the forces ourselves.
John chatted away about his time In France with the BEF and how they had just arrived in the area of Pont Remy/Abbeville as the Germans arrived. They didn't even have time to get off the train and so moved off and after a number of stop and starts he was eventually evacuated from Cherbourg. He told us of his time in North Africa and how proud he was to be involved with The Longest approach march in history. He described taking part in the Salerno Landings, the smoke and noise, the fight to take the nearby airfield and the fighting to take the tobacco factory. At this point I asked him if that was the tobacco factory near Eboli and also chatted about the allied aircraft trying to land with only half the airfield in friendly hands. John paused and I think something made him think that we were actually serious about what we did. He opened up more, and told us of the time he was lead vehicle in his bren gun carrier when it broke down. It was unceremoniously pushed to the side of the road to await repair. His mates passed by in the next bren carrier with the usual jeers and comments about him breaking down, only for them to hit a mine further up the road and all to be killed. This effected John immensely and with everything else he had gone through he was taken out of the line for a short time and missed the landings at Anzio. As with many who faced the same situation, he felt that it should have been him.
He re-joined his battalion and carried on with them to the wars end.
John thanked us for coming along, he was glad that what he and his mates had done, and had given up wasn't for nothing and that it was still remembered. We took some photos, poured a whiskey that appeared from hiding and made a toast to himself and his wife for their anniversary and said our goodbyes.
Ron thanked us and said that he had learnt more that evening about his dads time in the army then he had known before. Like so many veterans he didn't like to talk/remember the bad times and friends lost.
I could place some words here, but I think straight from Lens son Robin is much more appropriate!
'Here is some background on CQMS Len Vinson. He joined the Army as a boy musician with the Royal West Kents and served as a bandsman in India before WW2. He got out in 1938 and was a civilian long enough to get married and find a job with the Nuffield organisation before being called back in 1939 to join the Queen's!
I can confirm that my father was at Dunkirk, he told me that he "borrowed" a German motor-cycle to get there! He was a motor-cycle enthusiast before the war and was much happier riding the army issue BSA than being in the 1 1/2 ton Chevrolet. You can see that both he and his driver had their wives names and their hometowns painted on the lorry.
He received the Africa Star, the Italy Star and the France and Germany Star. When I was a boy I had some Afrika Korps celluloid goggles that the Germans used in the desert. Before D-Day he returned to England from Italy to help train drivers for the invasion There were more photos but a lot went missing after my mother died - I remember a couple of 35mm Leica cassettes (he "liberated" a Wehrmacht camera which you can see around his neck in some photos) with processed negatives that showed how close his unit got to Arnhem, you could see the Dakotas dropping supplies in the distance.
After the war he went to teachers training college and when he died in 1968 he was deputy Head of the Primary School in Hythe, Kent. He had also joined the TA and received a commission in 1953, being promoted to Captain in 507Co RASC.'
From Stans Niece, Jan Farmer 'I am trying to find details of the burial ground of my uncle Stanley Reed. The only details I have are contained in a letter to my grandmother dated 7th June 1943 from Infantry Record Office, Ashford, Middlesex. It would appear from this letter, that my grandmother had written saying that she had not heard from her son for some time. She was advised that his correspondence should be addressed to 6105253 Private S. Reed The Queen's Royal Regiment, A.P.O.5200. As far as I am aware from what my parents told me, Stan served in Burma, and was killed in a plane crash on a victory flight after the war. As in lots of cases in the past, my parents were not ones to discuss such sadness with their children, and therefore I had very few details of what happened to Stan. However, he was a big loss in my life even though I was only six at the time. I have such fond memories of Stan, who I used to play 'soldiers' with when I was a kid, and I still have a little black velvet handbag with a silver embroidered Taj Mahal on it, which he sent to me. He was such a nice guy.
We worked out from the regimental website that Stan had probably joined up in 1942.
'I would imagine Stan would have joined the army 1942/43 as you have suggested, as the letter I have from Infantry Record Office to my Grandmother was dated June 1943, when she was making enquiries as she had not heard from him for some time. At that time it was confirmed that as far as was known he was safe and his correspondence should be sent to The Queen's Royal Regiment, A.P.O.5200. It would make sense that he was based in India for training, at some time, from whence he sent the purse.'
After searching the RAF Museums archives I found the accident record for the aircraft that Stan had been on. Unfortunately it wasn't a pleasant finding especially like so many others it had happened after hostilities had ended.
The aircraft was one of three aircraft transporting troops to Saigon for garrison duties. The aircraft was a Dakota mark IV of 117 Squadron aircraft code number KK118. The full details are not known, only that two aircraft arrived and one didn't. It was believed that the aircraft after leaving its base entered Cu-nim clouds and broke up ("Cu Nim" is short for cumulonimbus. Cumulonimbus clouds are a type of cumulus cloud associated with thunder storms and heavy precipitation ). The aircraft crash site at the time was unknown, but i have found out that it was near a town called Duyinzeik. Stan had been placed on the memorial at Rangoon as he had no known resting place. It is now believed that the graves in Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery in southern Burma of 20 unknown soldiers and RAF airmen who, I'm told, were killed in a plane crash near DUYINZEIK Burma could be them. The dates correspond to the aircraft that Stan was on.
The actual date of the crash was 6th September 1945, altogether 26 lost there lives.
Fg Off R H T Squire
Flt Sgt E W Trail
Fg Off J M Ross
Fg Off E M Sissons
Believed to be: AC2 J Brown
Pvt D J Auburn
Pvt L Bass
Pvt H W Crankshaw
Pvt L Finch
WO II (CSM) V J Goodchild
Pvt J Hillier
Pvt B E Jones
Lance Sgt R H B Kemp
Pvt R L Munt
Pvt W W Oliver
2nd Lt B P Pattie Royal Fusiliers attached
Lance Cpl C E Pritchard
Lance Cpl G A Rackett
Pvt S J Reed
Pvt W S Reed
Pvt E C Smith
Pvt W J Stokes
Pvt F J Stone
Pvt E J Sullivan
Pvt A C Swinchatt
Pvt S G T Vickery.
The graves are marked -
A SOLDIER OR AN AIRMAN
1939 – 1945 WAR
THE QUEEN'S ROYAL REGIMENT
ROYAL AIR FORCE
6TH SEPTEMBER 1945
KNOWN UNTO GOD.
By Robert Stockwell - My father was in the Queens Royal Regiment 2/5 Battalion - 169th (London) Infantry Brigade - 56th (London) Division from 1940 until 1946.My father was called up on 24th June 1940 - his first posting was to Dover.
From Carman Lea - My father Percy, James Hackman was called up at the beginning of the war, he and my mum lived at 7 pyrcroft Road Chertsey Surrey. I know he was a desert rat but he never talked a lot about the army.
I know he was in Tripoli and many of the other major places that films have been made about, I know he was missing for a time and then he was found in a hospital I think it was somewhere in Italy.
My father was a Bren gunner.
Unfortunately we could not find much on Percy. If you have any information, please drop us a line!
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