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


Irish veterans return to theatres of war by The National Lottery Community Fund

World War Two veterans from across Ireland are making emotional journeys to the places where they fought thanks to funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return 2 programme.

George Lemon, 88, will return to France, Germany, Belgium and Holland later this year

George Lemon, 88, will return to France, Germany, Belgium and Holland later this year

George Lemon, 88, from Belfast, George Hopley, 91, from North Down and Ted Jones, 89, from Dublin will revisit their wartime postings across the world, from Florida to the Bahamas and Europe.

George Lemon, from Newtownbreda in Belfast, is travelling to battlefields in France, Germany, Belgium and Holland later this year but was just 18 and in sixth year at Larne Grammar School when he signed up with the RAF in 1941.

“You don’t think much about the dangers at that age – you just want adventure. Things were going quite badly at that stage in the war with Dunkirk and so on, so I suppose I had these romantic notions of taking to the hills to defend the country,” he explained.

George began his training at Lords Cricket Ground which was the receiving centre for the RAF and progressed through various courses before being designated as a bomb aimer flying operational missions over France and Germany.

“At the time you don’t really feel afraid – before we’d take off I sometimes felt anxious, but once you’re airborne the training takes over. When you’re flying though you’re quite divorced from what’s going on below so this trip will be an experience and help me appreciate the full story of what I was involved in,” said George.

“This trip will be a chance to think again about the role I played in those days and I really appreciate the opportunity.”

George Lemon pictured during his wartime service with the RAF

George Lemon pictured during his wartime service with the RAF

George Hopley, from North Down, is travelling to Nassau in the Bahamas later this year where he was stationed as RAF ground crew after joining up at just 18 with the RAF’s 502 Ulster Squadron.

“I was sent to the RAF’s base in the Bahamas in 1944 to train on American aircraft, chiefly the Liberators,” he said. “The Big Lottery Fund has given me a wonderful opportunity to go back later this year to a place I never thought I’d see again because it’s so far away. It’s given me a chance to think back and reminisce.”

Ted Jones, from Dublin, is travelling to Pensacola in Florida where he completed his pilot’s training at the RAF base there. Ted trained on Catalina seaplanes and gained his wings on April 29, 1942, as well as being recommended for a commission and made a Captain with the 190 Squadron in March 1943.

Ted said: “I was fortunate enough to fly with a great bunch of blokes during the war and that makes all the difference. Travelling back to Florida is a great opportunity to re-visit old sites and memories, a chance to remember those years.”

To find out more about the Heroes Return programme visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn or call the the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return advice line on 0845 00 00 121.



Stanley McColl and his family revist France where he saw action during WW2 by The National Lottery Community Fund
November 9, 2010, 4:52 pm
Filed under: D-Day | Tags: , , , , ,

Stanley McColl was a young soldier in 615 Guards, Armoured Division, when his tank landed on Sword Beach on D Day +2 with the objective – to liberate Caen.

With help from the Big Lottery Fund, my sister and I took our dad who is now 85 years old, back to France in October 2010, with a view to revisiting Sword Beach. We flew to Paris and after a couple of days sightseeing, we then took the train to Caen. My dad said “the last time I was here – the place was flattened.”

The next day we had to get a taxi to Bayeux because the trains were off due to the General Strike. Once in Bayeux we spent the morning at the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy. After lunch we met our guide for our afternoon tour of Sword Beach. We were taken first to Pegasus Bridge where we saw one of the gliders, then we went to the German bunker which had a simulation of the noise experienced during the invasion attack on the beach. When we arrived at Sword Beach, the guide took us to the part of the beach where my dad had landed and he asked my dad to tell his story – which everyone on the tour found very moving. After the beach we went to visit the British cemetery and we signed the visitors book.

The following day should have been a nice trip back to Paris by train, but once again we were caught up in strike action. We were very lucky to get the last three seats on a shuttle bus back to Charles de Gaulle Airport.

We had a wonderful visit and we would like to thank the Big Lottery Fund, the staff at Normandy Sightseeing Tours and especially our guide Mathias.