8 December 2016

Returning WW2 photos to families - can you help?

This is a slightly different post than normal, as it isn't about a book. But I do need some help!

Last year I purchased a group of photos from an auction site. They were all photos of men who served in the Second World War, labelled with their names. This is very unusual, as most photos I've purchased from flea markets and auctions don't have a name, so I was pleased to obtain these as I thought I'd be able to do some research on them.

Once I received them, I started examining them. It became clear to me that they had been labelled together, presumably for an exhibition. It also became clear that these photos should have been returned to their owners once the exhibition was completed, and that didn't happen.

So, I thought that I'd try and return them.

I deduced that the photos all seemed to be from the same area - Fleetwood in Lancashire, England. I did some searches of the names and did find a couple of leads, including a dramatic story relating to one of them men. I sent a few emails to contacts I found. I didn't get any replies.

So I tried another approach, and posted to a couple of Forums - WW2 Talk and Rootschat. From these posts, things started to progress. I was contacted by Diane Everett, an ex-resident of Fleetwood who now lives in Cape Town, South Africa. Diane is a member of the Fleetwoods Past Facebook group, and she posted a request to that group. This elicited a number of responses, and three photos were returned to family members.

At the same time I contacted Fleetwood Weekly News. They kindly put out two stories, which resulted in a number of responses and four more photographs were claimed by families.

An exciting response was received from David Swarbrick. One of the photos was of his father, Fred, and he was still alive. Living in Fleetwood, Mr Swarbrick served with the Army in India during the war. The Fleetwood paper later did a feature which included a photo of Mr Swarbrick with the returned photograph, which was fantastic.

Fred Swarbrick with the returned photo of himself taken during the Second World War, Fleetwood 2015
(photo courtesy of David Swarbrick)

Thanks to a recent post by Diane to Fleetwoods Past, I've recently been able to return another photo to the son of Stephen Ligo. His father served in the Army during the war, and was posted to Egypt at the end of the conflict.

In total, 8 photos have been returned to the families of the men. I would like to particularly thank Diane who has been instrumental in returning many of the photos so far.

So why am I posting this now? 

Because I still have 15 photos which are waiting for family members to claim them, and I am running out of leads. If anyone recognises any of the following men, please do get in contact. I would be very happy to reunite these with the families of the men - and perhaps even return them to the men in the photo themselves.

*** Update 12th January 2017 ***

The photo of Alan Hardern has now been returned to his family!
 
******************************




Here are the photos. If any additional information is known about the men I have include it below. 

Bill Parkinson - RAF Dental Corps

Gordon Ward - Army

Charles Thompson - Army
1925 - 2013


Ralph Leadbetter - Army

Alan Hardern - Parachute Regiment

RETURNED TO FAMILY
January 2017

Bill Hudson - Duke of Lancaster's Regiment

Cedric Spivey - Royal Engineers

Cyril Paley - RAF
1915-2011
Shot down and escaped from Switzerland

Frank Fielding - Royal Artillery

Harold Colley - RAF

John Dickinson,
C Troop - 350/137th Field Regiment,

Royal Artillery

Leonard Moon - Merchant Navy

Richard Snape - RAF

Teddy Dickson - Royal Artillery

Ronald Stansfield - Army


If anyone recognises these men as family members, or can provide any information, please either contact me or leave a comment below - thank you!


Thanks to:
Diane Everett
Peter Moran
Fleetwood Weekly News / Blackpool Gazette
David Swarbrick and all the Families who have been in contact
WW2talk
Rootschat
Fleetwoods Past

6 December 2016

Sketches of a Black Cat

Howard Miner never expected to contract the first documented case of the mumps in Guadalcanal history.

As a Navy Black Cat, he took his share of chances during the ten-hour, night long flights in darkened PBYs painted entirely black, searching the seas for enemy ships and downed fliers ~ the original stealth aircrafts. But wartime was unpredictable, and whether landing on an exotic tropical isle where the women he saw from the air turned out to be topless, or dropping wing tanks containing a strange new substance called “Napalm,” this was clearly a very different world than he had known as a college student in Indiana.

Sketches of a Black Cat follows Ron Milner's father’s journey through Corpus Christie and San Diego training facilities to the Solomon Islands for two tours of duty as a seaplane pilot in the South Pacific. Through his eyes, artwork, and first hand accounts, we are treated to a behind the scenes look at the idiosyncrasies of the military ~ the humor, the friendships made, the cultures discovered, and the very real dangers that characterized life during our struggle in the war with Japan.

The Black Cat Squadrons flew at night without lights in lumbering PBY Catalinas. The Cats operated out of the limelight as well, lacking the notoriety and glamour of the Navy’s fighters and bombers. These amphibious planes were used for most anything the Navy could dream up for them, from patrol and torpedo bombing to rescue and attack plane escort. PBYs played crucial roles in many pivotal moments during the war including the Battle of Midway and the search for the Bismark. They could also be found packed stem to stern with cases of beer, sometimes with a piano under one wing and a refrigerator under the other. Their missions were long, frequently 10-12 hours, and time between missions provided an opportunity for rest, Navy mischief, and in Howard Milner’s case, sketching.

Ron first saw his father's artwork as a young boy. One day his father casually slipped open a file cabinet, withdrew an old tattered folder, and pulled from it wonderful sketches and watercolors of planes, soldiers, and jungles ~ exciting images for a kid. After Howard Milners death a few years ago, his family were going through his things and discovered not only his artwork, but many boxes of writing, photographs, first hand accounts, and memorabilia, much of it almost seventy years old and virtually unknown to the family.

Sketches of a Black Cat is a unique portrayal of the War, using the collection of artwork, photos, and other materials to handsomely complement the storyline. It is at heart, a memoir ~ casual, first person, and more like a novel than historical text. Ron Milner's father’s story digs into the details and the life and times of the Cats.

Hear Ron Miner discuss the life and experiences of his father Howard Miner, a Black Cat during WWII:



Available from:
Amazon

25 November 2016

The Night Hunter’s Prey - The Lives and Deaths of a RAF Gunner and a Luftwaffe Pilot

This is the story of two airmen - an RAF Rear Gunner and a Luftwaffe Pilot. Alexander Ollar was raised in the Highlands of Scotland. He became an exceptional sporting shot and volunteered as an RAF Air Gunner in 1939. Helmut Lent enrolled for pilot training in the Luftwaffe as soon as he was old enough. Both were men of integrity and honour.

Alec completed his first tour of 34 operations with 115 Squadron and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal by the King. After a year as an instructor, Alec was commissioned and returned to 115 Squadron as Gunnery Leader. He took part in the first 1,000 bomber raid and was described by his Squadron Commander as the best rear gunner he had ever flown with.

At the same time Helmut was building up an impressive score of victories as a night fighter pilot and a national hero who was decorated by the Fuhrer. In July 1942, just as both men reach the apex of their careers, they meet for the first time in the night skies over Hamburg. As this fascinating book reveals, only one will survive.

Table of Contents
1. 'One of the Boys'
2. Early Days
3. First Blood
4. 'The Boys who bombed Berlin'
5. 'Two Birds dead in the Air'
6. Instructor
7. Rise of the Nachtjagd
8. Area Bombing
9. The First 1,000 Bomber Raid
10. Showdown
11. High Noon of the Nachtjagd
12. Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
13. Aftermath

Available from:
Pen and Sword

23 November 2016

6th Airborne Normandy 1944 - Past & Present

Operation Tonga began at 22:56 on the night of 5 June, when six Halifax heavy bombers took off from Tarrant Rushton towing six Horsas carrying a coup-de-main force consisting of D Coy, Ox and Bucks LI reinforced with two extra platoons from B Coy and a party of sappers, who were tasked with capturing the bridges over the Caen Canal and the River Orne.

6th Airborne Division—which included 1st Canadian Para Bn-had been allotted three specific tasks to achieve, apart from protecting the eastern flank of the Allied seaborne landings. First, it was to capture intact the two bridges over the Caen Canal and the Orne River at Benouville and Ranville. Second, the division was to destroy the heavily fortified Merville coastal artillery battery located at Franceville Plage, to ensure that it could not shell the British forces landing on Sword Beach.

A third task was to destroy several bridges spanning the River Dives-at Varaville, Robehomme, Bures, and Troarn. The division would then hold the territory that it had seized until it could be relieved by advancing Allied ground forces.

 6th Airborne Normandy 1944 - Past & Present examines these actions, providing a new angle on the stories with a range of period and modern photographs, detailing the locations as they now are. Similar to the excellent After the Battle titles,  6th Airborne Normandy 1944 - Past & Present is in an easier format for the battlefield visitor, as these are relatively compact paperback titles.

Available from:
Casemate

10 November 2016

Names in Stone - Forgotten Warriors of Bradford-on-Avon and District 1939-45

Names in Stone: often just a surname and an initial on war memorials across Britain. Yet, behind the cold, grey inscriptions, what do we know about the lives of the men who marched to war, never to return?

The average age of Bradford and District's servicemen in the Second World War was 27. They fought and died across Europe, North Africa and the Far East, in the air and at sea. A whole community mourned their loss but with the passage of time, inevitably, people forgot.

Names in Stone aims to bring these forgotten warriors back to public consciousness - not only to their communities of Bradford and surrounding villages, but to a wider audience too.

Here are the stories of more than 70 men, and one woman, from Bradford-upon-Avon, Holt, Monkton Farleigh, South Wraxall, Westwood, Wingfield and Winsley, who gave their lives in the Second World War.

These accounts - many of them told for the first time - show the bravery and tragedy of local people caught up in extraordinary events almost a lifetime ago.

Available from:
Amazon

9 November 2016

The Granite Men of Henri-Chapelle - Stories of New Hampshire's WWII Soldiers

They rest in a distant land they fought to liberate nearly 70 years ago, their lives ended by war and their stories quieted by time. For 38 New Hampshire World War Two soldiers buried in Belgium, their stories are brought to life once again in The Granite Men of Henri-Chapelle.

As WWII drew to an end in 1945, the New Hampshire state legislature adopted “Live Free or Die” as the state’s motto. At the same time, many families throughout the Granite state and the rest of the country prepared to welcome home their service members who had fought to preserve freedom around the world. Thirty-eight New Hampshire servicemen, however, would not be returning home.

Instead, they remained in Europe, resting permanently at the sprawling 57-acre American military cemetery called Henri-Chapelle in Belgium. These are not war stories. They are an attempt to illustrate each civilian life before the war as well as capture the essence of the person behind the military rank—to allow each one an opportunity to share his life once again, a life he sacrificed in the pursuit of liberty for his fellow man.

Available from:
Outskirts Press

8 November 2016

Lest We Forget - The Tavistock Fallen of the Second World War

The publication of this book completes, for Alex Mettler and Garry Woodcock, a journey of discovery that was begun six years ago. A shared interest in the history of the town of Tavistock (UK) and in memorials of all kinds led to a decision to launch a project based on the names inscribed on Tavistock's War Memorial.

The motives were not to uncover and record great acts of heroism or qualities of sainthood, although there were plenty of deeds of courage and sacrifice along the way. Rather the aim was to present the fallen of the two World Wars in their local contexts, to give them homes, families, schools and jobs, to try to say something about their war service and their deaths.

This, the second volume, deals with the Second World War. The stories of the forty who are named on the memorial as casualties of that war are arranged in the chronological order in which they died, so that the development of the war can be followed as both a theme running through the book and a context within which to place the individual stories.

The book opens with an essay about their home town, Tavistock, during the war, thus giving a record of events 'at home' to complement the record of momentous world-wide events in which local people participated.

Some people believe that the passage of the years makes it less needful for such events as these to be recorded. The authors of this book take the opposite view.

Available from:
Devon Museums