Heroes Return Blog – Stories from Second World War veterans’ trips


Heroes Return podcast by The National Lottery Community Fund

World War II veterans throw a poppy wreath for Remembrance Sunday

To mark Remembrance Sunday, we have produced a podcast featuring the moving stories of two veterans who have received funding through our Heroes Return scheme to visit the places they fought.

Doug Mayman is travelling back to Lucheux, Normandy in April with his daughter to retrace his steps using World War II diaries that he kept, and Ted Hedges, who served in RAF Coastal Command, hunting for the U-Boats targeting allied convoys, talks to us about his trip back to the Azores.

Big Lottery Fund Chief Executive Peter Wanless talks about what Heroes Return means to him and the Big Lottery Fund.

Listen to it here:

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Last hurrah for WW2 veterans by The National Lottery Community Fund

Second World War Royal Navy veterans from across the UK are flying out to Singapore and Malaysia next week (28thJanuary) to pay their respects for the final time to the comrades that lost their lives in the Pacific. The veterans are part of a 127 strong party from the British Pacific and East Indies Fleets Association

It is the final time the veterans, most now in their 80s and 90s, are travelling as a group to pay their respects in Singapore and on the Malaysian island of Penang.

One member of the association making the trip is Mr Victor Gray who lives in Plymouth and first joined the Royal Navy in September 1943 just after his 18th birthday.  Victor, who is now 85, was chosen to be trained as a specialist radio operator, intercepting the enemy radio transmissions and in 1944 travelled to the Far East on the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious via the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Victor explains: “We went to India and became part of the East Indies Fleet.  We then set sail for Palembang and in a battle with the Japanese over two or three days we managed to destroy a third of the Japanese oil supplies. After that we travelled down to Sydney where we joined what then became the British Pacific Fleet. It was so hot, you could fry an egg on the flight deck and I actually saw that done more than once.

To find out more about Victor’s story and the Heroes Return 2 programme visit our programme page

http://www2.biglotteryfund.org.uk/pr_220110_uk_hr_last_hurrah_for_wwii_veterans



Jack Fowler serving in the Army during World War Two by The National Lottery Community Fund
December 3, 2009, 10:35 am
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This picture shows a young Jack Fowler in the middle of his friends that he saw service with in the Second World War



Final thoughts by The National Lottery Community Fund
November 26, 2009, 11:47 am
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Our trip to Egypt was a once in a lifetime experience. It was fascinating for my father to re-visit and for myself to experience just a very small part of what he, as a young man, must have endured, and maybe bringing just a small understanding of the effects this terrible war had on the lives of so many of his generation.



How the war affected both sides by The National Lottery Community Fund
November 26, 2009, 11:46 am
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We also visited the Italian and German war graves. Originally these graves had been together but the German cemetery has been moved and stands just off the shoreline. Both of these are also beautifully maintained monuments to all those young people who lost their lives in this terrible conflict



Memories of battle by The National Lottery Community Fund
November 26, 2009, 11:45 am
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At El Alamein Museum we saw a 3 ton truck that was exactly what my father and his fellow soldiers had made their home whilst in the desert. They would dig into the sand and drive their lorry in, covering themselves with a tarpaulin at night so as to be warm and not visible to the enemy. It was said with meaning that really the real enemy at this time was the desert.

The soldiers would not always know where the enemy actually was. Although appearing flat, the desert is not at all, and has many ridges that can hide tanks and soldiers. Also, when Germans captured British vehicles they would sometimes use these in battles so it was not always possible to recognise the real enemy.



Food for thought by The National Lottery Community Fund
November 26, 2009, 11:44 am
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Lunch this day consisted of tahini and cold chips, cheese rolls, cucumber and a tomato with an unusual fruit drink as accompaniment. This was taken in the middle of the desert, perched on an extremely uncomfortable rock in 40 degrees heat. But this couldn’t even begin to compare in discomfort to what my father and his generation must have borne. We didn’t complain. We were beginning at this stage to desire some different kind of fayre for our meals but bore this also with fortitude when my father explained that his daily diet was corned beef and hard taq biscuits that the soliders had to crush with water in order to make them edible. He also said that he only got one pint of water a day, and he recalls that sometimes he had to give some of this to the cook.



Camels….. by The National Lottery Community Fund
November 26, 2009, 11:43 am
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One sight we do hope to recall in our minds is that of a herd of camels wandering through the desert with their herder. Apparently a man’s wealth is measured by how many camels he has. It was lovely seeing them in their natural habitat as opposed to all dressed up for giving tourist rides.



Visiting the Cemeteries by The National Lottery Community Fund

The cemeteries play host to the dead from many faiths:- Jews, Muslims, Christians, and are all beautifully maintained. This we found surprising as we had only expected the war graves to be so well tended.

The War grave we visited this morning was the final resting place for not only the fallen of WWII but also, the battles of a bygone age – now seen only in films. Napoleon fought battles along these shores and many dead from this time can be found in the graveyards. Whilst my father inspected the row upon row of pristine and highly respected graves of WWII I found myself very touched by a tomb dedicated to the family of one Daniel Frazer. The epitaph read:-

Maggie Frazer died 1892         34 years

Also lie here her children

Elizabeth         died 1887        11 months

Isabella            died 1891        6 years

Daniel              died 1891        3 years

“Sleep on loved ones and take your rest, I loved you well, but Jesus loved you best.”

Other inscriptions I found touching included, “He does not die who lives on in the hearts of loved ones.”

We both were wondering what these cities/ places must have been like in 1892.



Alexandria by The National Lottery Community Fund
November 26, 2009, 10:51 am
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The Hotel Cecil in Alexandria, with its 150 year old lift was a hotel highlight. Along with its ancient façade and wonderful historical feeling – it was a lovely hotel with excellent food and nice rooms. Alexandria is a cosmopolitan and fascinating city which I really enjoyed vsiting. So in contrast with Cairo, that is so chaotic busy and smog filled.

My father couldn’t really remember this city very well, but he will now, as I found and bought him the most lovely antique walking stick – for all of £3.50. (Maybe it wasn’t an antique!)

Alexandria retains the vestiges of an elegant age – it shows in its buildings and the care that is taken of them. Apparently they re-paint them every 5 years.