Thursday, 10 May 2012

Dad's Army

I don't know if anyone saw the Channel 5 programme on Tuesday called "War Hero in my family". It's a programme a bit like "Who do you think you are" but it traces people's family members who took part in WW2. This week featured Ann Widdecombe's look into her uncle's military history in Tunisia. I was particularly interested in this as my own late father served in Tunisia too and it was good to have an insight into what it was like.

Dad had never talked about the war and all I knew was that he served in Tunisia; it was very hot and there were terrible problems with the sand and flies. He had also mentioned Sicily and Italy and I remember seeing some photos. Other than that I didn't have a clue.

This is Dad on the left possibly in Tunisia

Dad in the middle - possibly in Italy


About ten years ago I wrote to the Ministry of Defence to enquire if they had anything on their records that might be of interest to me. I was delighted to receive a plotted history of his service career. It was the best £20 I have ever spent as the information gave me lots to go on in my endeavour to see when and where he went. In the meantime I picked up this old paper/magazine at an antiques fair which helped with my research and what a find!





As a skilled engineer working with GEC Dad joined the Territorial Army prior to war breaking out and after initial training and going through the ranks he was eventually made up to Sergeant and posted to the newly formed Inspectorate in the REME (Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers) where he was in charge of and oversaw the maintenance and day to day running of the tanks and other armoured vehicles.



He was posted to Tunisia on 8th November 1942 (not sure of his whereabouts prior to this date - must look into it). His unit was attached to the Eighth Army and after the Tunisian campaign was over on the 12 May 1943 they went on to capture Sicily and by late 1944 the army group pushed northward through Italy, capturing Rome. Italy was finally defeated in Spring 1945.



This little plotted history on two pages of A4 was enough to start many years of research into the story of his WW2 military service. It listed the medals he had won, physical description on enlistment and details of family. His testimonial, which says it all about my dad, said:

"An extremely good tradesman, selected for Inspectorate duties. Sober, reliable
and conscientious with a very pleasant disposition". 



Bye for now x

12 comments:

  1. How proud you must be of your dad. Thank you so much for sharing with us.
    Lisa x

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    1. Thankyou Lisa. Who'd have thought all those years ago that his story and a few snapshots would be published to a potentially world wide audience in years to come.

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  2. Fascinating story, I love reading things like this.

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    1. There may be more to come Anne. I think I read on one of your posts recently that you rely on BMD certificates and census returns for your research. Have you ever tried the Family Search.org - its a free service run by the Church of the Latter Day Saints and gives details of parish records prior to 1837 when it became law to have BMD certificates. You can track back many hundreds of years.

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  3. How exciting to be able to find out so much about your dad's army service.

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    1. It was lovely to do this research Rowan and I seem to know more about him now than I ever did.

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  4. Thanks for this Patricia, I must try to watch it if it is repeated. My father was in the Royal Army Medical Corps and also served in the Middle East and Italy (as did my step-father who was with REME). Years ago I sent for the forms to enquire about his service records but for some reason probably the cost at the time, I didn't send for it. I know he was a cook as he was a baker before the war and I have one or two photos of him and his fellow soldiers that are similar to yours. As he was 30 when war broke out he was called up later - he served in the local home guard first:)

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    1. It was a good programme Rosie and I'd never have spotted it if it wasn't for my sister who told me about it. I did actually go to the REME museum/headquarters in Berkshire several years ago and was able to glean a few more bits of information as to what their involvement was during the war. All very interesting.Good luck with your own research.

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  5. I have really enjoyed reading about how and what you found out about your family history - it's another of those things that I have always meant to do. xCathy

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    1. Thankyou for stopping by Catherine nice to meet you. It's quite frustrating at first and can become addictive but the results are so worth it. Patricia

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  6. How interesting. I don't think many people talked about their war time experiences, it was probably too horrible, and I guess they tried to get on with their lives and cope just like everyone else did.

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    1. Thankyou for your comment Jenny it was nice to see you here. I agree that most people may have drawn a curtain over their wartime memories. Patricia

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