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 Post subject: Family history
PostPosted: Wed 06 May 2009 12:32 pm 
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My interest in family history didn't really start until all my grandparents were dead  :cry:  As such, I really wish I'd asked more questions earlier - to get the story(s) straight from the horses mouth  :idea:
Contrary to popular belief, parents don't know everything - or the things they do recall can vary from time to time  :roll:  I knew my mother's father had been in the RAF and was stationed at Sywell. In my youthful ignorance I imagined he was a fighter pilot (or something like)  :angel:  He died around 1984, but it wasn't until recently that my mum told me that he was an Anti-Aircraft gunner (so probably in the RAF Regiment) and went from Sywell to Malta and Italy  :o
I knew dad's dad had been in the Army. He was a man of few words and it wasn't until he died (around 1973) that my cousin read his wartime diaries. He was in tanks in North Africa and there was a catalogue of how his mates were killed around him. I'd asked my dad which Regiment he served with but he didn't know  :(  Talking to dad again the other day, he told me that pap started off in Egypt and fought through North Africa, Sicily and Italy  :o  He hated Italians (maybe he'd fought them all the way) and didn't like that his eldest son married an Italian  :fear:
So you see my research has only just scratched the surface.

If anyone else is thinking of travelling down a similar path, I'd say "Do it now" - don't wait until it's too late  :wink:

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PostPosted: Wed 06 May 2009 13:37 pm 
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Rich if you can get hold of the diaries, try entering a few of the names of his comrades who died in the Commonwealth War Graves database and you might be able to pick up the regiment that way.

My girlfriend's late father (also LAA) had a busy war around the Med too, including a period of about a year when the army lost him after he was evacuated from Crete. Didn't find him again until he was at an AA school in Beirut.

David

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PostPosted: Wed 06 May 2009 17:22 pm 
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Ratch, try if you can, to get hold of a book by Tony Spooner DSO DFC called "In full flight"?
He trained at Sywell and ended up in Malta, I have a copy here (somewhere) but haven't read it for years :oops:
I remember it being a very interesting read, especially as I live not a million miles from Sywell and had my first flight from there around 1976 in a Dh Rapide

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 Post subject: Re: Family history
PostPosted: Wed 06 May 2009 17:45 pm 
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Ratch wrote:
pap started off in Egypt and fought through North Africa, Sicily and Italy  :o  He hated Italians (maybe he'd fought them all the way)


In some respects, then he was a very lucky man, then - to have made it through the war, but on the other hand, he would have witnessed a lot of unsavoury things, and seen a lot of mates killed and maimed.

I don't think it's worthwhile being speculative about his hatred. There could be any number of reasons why, beginning with "if it wasn't for Italy, he wouldn't have had to go to Africa in the first place", to some particular incident somewhere along the way.

New Zealand's Charles Upham similarly hated Germans (he got his first VC in Crete, and his 2nd in North Africa, where he was captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW). He famously wouldn't let anyone with a German car onto his farm after the war.

My dad hated Japanese, disliked Germans and Italians, and had ambivalence for Swedes (because Sweden remained neutral). Still, he visited Germany and Sweden in 1973, and eventually bought a Japanese car (in 1985). Time heals all wounds.


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PostPosted: Wed 06 May 2009 17:51 pm 
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I was lucky as a child to be bought up by my grandad who joined the army in 1938 and served with them as part of the BEF  and throughout the war until he left them in 1948.He got to the rank of staff sergent as he was a very loud,short and intimidating red haired Irish man. :lol:

He told me many stories on our hunting and fishing trip's that are still in my mind and I was lucky that he wrote much of it down for me.I always roped him in to help with history projects at school which was helpful.

The only thing he wouldn't talk about was when they rolled into Belson to liberate the camp and that experience gave him nightmares for the rest of his life.

I was also very lucky to serve my apprenticeship with a guy who was a Fleet Air Arm photorapher on the Ark Royal for many years,he had some brilliant tales that were always accompanied with photos.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed 06 May 2009 17:56 pm 
Ayup All...

My Great Uncle Harry was with the BEF too and rescued from Dunkirk. He had permanent shell shock and needed Park Drive Cigarettes to even come close to not shaking... he was only 4'10 or so and had to stand neck-deep in the water for ages to be rescued...

He was very reticent about telling me and my cousin 'War Stories'.

But he was a generous old soul and left me £500 in his will...


Last edited by feanor on Thu 07 May 2009 08:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed 06 May 2009 20:52 pm 
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I'm going to suggest something that is, I  believe, "on topic."  If you happen to have endured some horror in wartime, and you have never shared this with your children, you may wish to consider doing so (if they are adults).  I understood my father much better after he told me all he could of his wartime experiences.

But pay heed to the words of the poet; "When you tell your story, make sure your story's right.  That every word is true."

And that's all I'm going to say about that... :pray:

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PostPosted: Thu 07 May 2009 16:19 pm 
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It was when I was looking up some RAF WWII war diary that I came across the Air Historical Branch.
This led me to find out that my mother could ask for copies of my grandfather's RAF service records.

We knew that he had been in the RAF in the War as a tradesman and had been injured at his station in an accident. But it was through the service records and then station records that we found where and when he'd been posted and the circumstances of  the accident.

the point being (to add to Ratch's statement), find out sooner rather than later - Services records are only available to immediate relations (wife, son daughter).

Graeme


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PostPosted: Fri 08 May 2009 18:36 pm 
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I no my grandad was in the raf in the dental core he was a dentist assistant but i dont no were but i also no my great grandad used to build lancaster bombers in leeds but i never knew him because he died before i was born

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PostPosted: Fri 08 May 2009 19:36 pm 
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Time to ask some questions then  :wink:

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PostPosted: Fri 08 May 2009 22:19 pm 
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I know that my Maternal Grandfather was in the RAF during the war, I was always told that he was a Gunner in Hampdens, but am now told that he was an Air Observer. So not sure on that front

I also know that my Paternal Grandfather was in the Army and was a mechanical driver and drove Matador's mostly

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PostPosted: Sat 09 May 2009 15:12 pm 
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My paternal grandfather was with the Royal Engineers  during the second world war and was awarded the Military Medal  as a lance-Sergeant(yes there was such a rank,I believe it was a field promotion),My maternal Grandfather  fought at El Alamein and worked his way up the length of Italy only to be killed between Glasgow and Newcasle when the Jeep he was in turned over (he was on his way home for good ),we know he had a bundle of medals but as to what we are not sure I have visited his grave in Felling ,County Durham and paid my respects.My Uncle from the USA  was with a searchlight unit  that went in on the second wave on D-day,I am waitng for imformation about his service from my cousin in West Virginia.From the end of World War 2  there has not been a decade when a member of the family  was not involved in a conflict somewhere in the world ,right up to the present day,my brother in law is about to embark for Afghanistan as a combat medic.If anyone can help with advice on finding out about my maternal Grandfathers medals I would be most grateful

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PostPosted: Sat 09 May 2009 16:48 pm 
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This handsome gent is my maternal grandfather Macdonald Wilson . He fought in the trenches in WW1 .As a young 'un he told me stories of what it was like and recalled being strafed by German aircraft while on a troop train . We were very close and sadly he passed away in 1974 after a long and full life . If he harboured any resentment against the Germans I don't know . My uncle Pete was a bomber crew member (Lancs I think but I'm not sure ) and was a POW for a while but never talked about it much . My uncle Ernie on the other hand was taken prisoner by the Japanese and to his dying day , hated them with a passion . I can only imagine the conditions he and others faced but he was rail thin and never fully recovered .
My daughter is on her second tour in Afghanistan and we have had many heart to heart discussions about such matters .
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PostPosted: Sat 09 May 2009 17:11 pm 
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Dad was a trooper in the 14th/20th Kings Hussars during W.W.II, as a tank driver. North Africa, Western Desert, Sicily, Italy, Austria and Germany.
Man of very few words, apart from "i did my bit, survived, came home and got on."
He lost a lot of good friends, got 'brewed up' more than once, had a (very) few stories paticularly about their Sergeant who was shot,
survived a 'through and through' two entry, two exit wounds, he couldn't sit for weeks! (you can figure it out!)
Entered a consentration camp two - three days after it had been 'liberated.' Tank driver - Bulldozer driver? i don't know.

His brother, my Paternal uncle, was a corporal 'don - R'
(despatch rider), never left the U.K.

My Maternal uncle was a Sergeant Red Cap, (M.P.) served both in England and the canal zone in Egypt.

My other Maternal uncle joined up in '34/5? as a 'boy' soldier.
Stationed on the Belgian border 39/40, had to force march down to Dunkirk and wait to be taken off the beach, his regiment was so desimated that it was disbanded.
Uncle would have been invalided out, but there was a war on, so he went on board ship, (Merchant Marine) and amongst other destinations was Murmansk, torpedoed on one trip 'up north' and spent 48 hours in an open boat.

We hear the word "hero" so often now, and normally it's used WAY out of context.
Everybody that has been mentioned in this thread are TRUE hero's,
whatever branch of service, and werever they were stationed, so, to you all, MY everlasting thanks, but, especially me Dad.
Thanks Dad and Rest in Peace.

Paul

P.S.
Skipperjjt, the department you need is part of the M.O.D. and is based down in Glostershire. Should be able to 'Google' it under British war medals, awards. Would be helpful if you have your
maternal Grandfathers service number.
Your Grandfathers awards should include:- 1939-1945 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal and possibly
the General Service Medal

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PostPosted: Sun 10 May 2009 08:45 am 
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My dad always told me when I was a lad that he was "one of the few" ,It wasnt until I was older and got an interest in history etc. he admitted he was a male nurse in the RAF after the war when doing his national service. Still he has told me some interesting and funny stories.
  One that springs to mind was just after he had finished his medical training he was based at RAF oakington and a letter was put on the board asking where they would like to be posted, my dad being married wanted to be as near to mum as possible so wrote on the form "as far south as possible " thinking of Tangmere as he lived in Hove on the south coast, but he got posted to Aden in the gulf ! which as he put it was it bit too far south !!

  My grandfather was a torpedoman 1st class on HMS Valiant during the battle of Jutland and I remember him telling me how when the ship fired its first full broadside salvo they actually thought the ship was going to turn over with the recoil.

 My uncle was a radar operator in the RAF in Burma, he would sit high in the mountains looking for Japanese aircraft. Im lucky enough that this uncle spent his retirement tracing our family tree and wrote a book about it ,so I can trace mine family back to William the conquerers times.


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PostPosted: Sun 10 May 2009 21:48 pm 
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Hi Ratch

I've been tracing my family history for about 8 months now, using that free online tree-building programme that I'm not sure if I'm allowed to mention here!!

Anyway, I have 340 peolple in my tree already and, my wife being Irish and being from Irish descent, the tree is growing by the minute!!!

I bet you're proud of your Dad and Grandad as I am too of mine.  Dad was stationed at RAF Shobdon during the war as a driver and mechanic.  He wasn't one of these old boys who felt they had to bring the war into the conversation at every opportunity.  On the contrary.  He very rarely spoke about it unless you asked him.  Then he could hold your attention for hours!!

His account of the reaction on the airfiled on the morning of June 6th 1944 is legendary.  Though Dad sadly passed on eleven years ago, I can still hear him fondly recalling the events in his Worcester accent.

All the best


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PostPosted: Mon 11 May 2009 00:32 am 
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Trace it now and get the story is the thing to do with any older relatives still alive. We tried to do this several years ago and didn't get far- our parents didn't even know the family names of the female lines nor the family relationships of many people. This included the names of grandparents. Nevertheless we should have written down all we heard- now they are gone except my mother who is 93 next month- but not with good memory.
Her cousin served in Lancs as a radio operator and was lost over Germany- his mother, a devout woman, didn't got to church for years. she gave me his small prayer bible which has pressed poppies in it. The inscription shows he got it as part of his  confirmation. That part of our family is now extinct- no male heirs at all.
My uncle was in the RAF I think but I haven't a clue where he served- UK only I suspect. My dad got his brother's RAF boots because he had borrowed dad's shoes and never returned them. I wore these boots as a teenager in winter weather! Dad didn't serve despite trying to enlist because he was disabled by polio as a young boy.
My father in law was also RAF- ground crew- patching holes in aircraft. Not fit to fly or A1 fit but classed as such to go to the Pacific war as soon as the the European war was over. The Atom bomb saved him the experience of foreign climes. He did tell us one story about how they went out to recover the body of a pilot who had been shot down in a Spit- there was a hole in the ground with bits of the engine still burning but not much more. No real chance of recovering the body. They filled in  the hole and for the burial service they put the chap's best uniform in the coffin with some stones to weight it down. The relatives of course never knew.
My experience from the 1960s is that at that time most people who saw action were reticent about talking about it- they would rather forget- or not be reminded of the people and friends they lost. Those who do talk about their experiences tend to have reached old age when they have come to terms with the horror and remember their comrades with much genuine affection.
Family members have patchy recall of others in the family and little idea of their forebears lineage. To trace a family tree well you should have an unusual surname- Madame's is Crewdson and there are only about 3000 in the world- mine's Harrison about one of the most common in the UK- no chance of doing much detailed tracing with that one! Yet likely to have a Scandinavian Viking origin in the north! Longships and all that!
Stu


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PostPosted: Mon 11 May 2009 01:51 am 
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Oddly enough, those who do trace their family usually only get as far as the 17 hundreds, anything before that is very scarce as hardly any records survive, even if anything was recorded.

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PostPosted: Mon 11 May 2009 03:10 am 
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My grandfather served in the rainbow division  in WWI. he told me about the trenches and he was in the occupation forces in Germany. He had his uniform and his helmet and his gas mask preserved by my family. I saw his springfield 1903 rifle and his blue shirt that he wore at one time under his uniform. My uncles served in WW2, Korea and one even served in north africa and was a tank commander. one of my cousins served in nam and got agent orange sickness.  My dad was in Korea and fought in the second infantry divison.  I wish I could have served but my disability would not allow my service.

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 Post subject: Re: Family history
PostPosted: Sun 17 May 2009 17:41 pm 
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Ratch wrote:
If anyone else is thinking of travelling down a similar path, I'd say "Do it now" - don't wait until it's too late  :wink:

Image
Advice taken. That's me, my Grandad & his war album this weekend.  Photos (& models!) to follow in the next few days :wink:
Thanks Ratch.

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