This weekend I have watched the ceremonies on the television of the Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall in London and the Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph and could not but be moved by the stories of courage, tragedy and loss. My blogs this month have focused on my First World War ancestors but the emotions of today have prompted me not to exclude the later generation who played their part in World War Two. This is a tribute to my father, uncles and aunt, who thankfully survived the war.
My father, John P. Weston
My father (left) John Weston of Blackpool, Lancashire often talked about his war experiences and I am afraid it did provoke the reaction at times of “Not the war again, Dad”. It was only later that we came to realise what a life-defining period it was, and I persuaded him to write an account for his granddaughter, Gillian. I was also proud to add my father's accounts to the BBC World War Two People's Story online.
Dad served in the RAF Codes & Ciphers Branch and was seconded to General Bradley’s US 12th Army Group HQ. He landed at Omaha beach after D-Day and advanced via St. Mere Eglise, Avranches, Versailles, Paris, Verdun and Luxembourg through to Wiesbaden in Germany. Immediately after VE Day he was posted to Burma where he was for VJ Day.
The following story of Charles Weston, my uncle, (right) is told in the poignant words of my father. "Uncle Charles was a POW on the Bridge of the River Kwai — at least it was a bridge when the hundreds of POWs had finished it. Conditions were dreadful, 100s died through lack of food, mostly slops, no solids. Charles had beri-beri, dysentery, ulcers and malaria. After the atomic bomb fell on Japan the POWs on the bridge were taken to Singapore and stayed in Changhai jail until shipped home. My Mum and Dad never expected to see him again. In 1942 they got a card through the Red Cross — from the War Minister which read “Regret to inform you that your son has been posted missing”. Dad packed up work and the news broke him — he was never the same again. It was at Christmas 1943 that Mum got a card from the Red Cross with a few words “I am safe and well” — “Safe” yes…..”Well” certainly Not. I was so sorry for Charles, as he arrived in Liverpool with no-one able to meet him. I was in Burma and Mum could not leave my Dad".
Harry Rawcliffe Danson (left) was my uncle on my mother's side of the family from Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. In this photograph I think there is an Errol Flynn look about him!
He was one of the many saved by the small ships at Dunkirk, arriving back home many days later in the uniform in which he entered the sea to be rescued. Unlike my father, he never talked about his wartime experiences, but seeing commemoration services or documentaries on TV could bring tears to his eyes, so the memories remained very strong. He later served in North Africa.
Harry's younger brother was Billy, (right) named after his father William Danson. Apart from knowing he joined the navy, I know little about his life.
Peggy Danson, my aunt, was born after the First World War - the much younger sister of Harry and Billy. She served in the WAAFs (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) and shortly after the war married and emigrated to Australia.