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

Memories by Lawrence Emerick by The National Lottery Community Fund
August 3, 2010, 10:36 am
Filed under: D-Day, Heroes Return | Tags: , , ,

Lawrence Emerick served in Europe in the Second World War and here he recounts his trip back to France where the D Day landings took place.

‘So after 66 years I saw an advertisement for the 4 day weekend to visit Normandy and the D Day beaches.  I had been thinking about this trip but did not get round to it.  Now I thought it was about time I went back to see how much things had changed.

Obviously they had, there is very little sign of the destruction that occurred  everything seems to have been repaired and in the sunshine it would hard to imagine the utter desolation we had seen.

Our journey took us via Dover and Calais to Caen.  The roads are so much different to 1945, wide and easy to drive along.  Then they were crowded and rather difficult to negotiate.  From our base in Caen out journey took us to the landing beaches and I was particularly interested in  Arromanges Looking over the beach you cannot see anything of the Mulbery Harbour where in June 1945 I had driven onto not knowing what lay before us (at 19 I think it was more apprehension than fear).  Parts of the outer breakwater are still visible but you have to see the models in the museum to realise what a feat of engineering it took to put in place.  From the top of the hill I could see the exit we made from the beach driven on by shouts of the Beachmasters “to get off the beach as quickly as possible”. You can see a section of the Mulbery Harbour behind the museum which houses models which show how much it was used by so much traffic.  We visited the new Pegasus Bridge over the Orme river, where so many paratroopers were lost.  The original bridge is still preserved in a nearby field.  We visited the 5 landing beaches Omaha, Juno. Sword, Gold and Utah where so much carnage took place, now it looks so peaceful in the sunshine with miles of golden sand and sand yachts skipping along.

On to Pointe du Hoc where the only remaining pill box of the Atlantic wall remains.  The bomb craters have been left as they were made a grim reminder of what bombing can do.  Ste Mere Eglise now appears a peaceful village.

The visits to the American war graves cemetery and the British and Commonwealth cemetery brings home the utter futility of war and the suffering it brings.

One headstone read “Driver RASC 19.  Another “Unknown seaman 20” (I was 19).  Standing looking at the rows of headstones made me feel sad and grateful and tearful to the many servicemen and women who lost their lives.

Another visit was the American Air Museum where the town church still sports a parachute hanging from the steeple where the paratrooper got hung up on – he played dead so was not shot at and was rescued.

I am glad I went on this trip at last to see how the museums have preserved the weapons of war and tributes to all who took part from D Day onwards.’

Robert Day by The National Lottery Community Fund
April 30, 2010, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Africa, Heroes Return | Tags: , , ,

Robert Day who featured in our Heroes Return 2 film, where he returned to Egypt, sadly passed away 16th April 2010. Our thoughts are with his family.

War veteran to fly to Burma to honour dead comrades by The National Lottery Community Fund
March 25, 2010, 10:12 am
Filed under: Burma, Far East, Heroes Return | Tags: , , , ,

Read this moving BBC article as David Norman Davies plans on returning the Burma to honour his fallen comrades: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/8586591.stm

War veteran’s emotional return to Singapore by The National Lottery Community Fund
February 5, 2010, 11:39 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Jack Fowler served in the Far East during the Second World War before his was captured by the Japanese and taken to a POW camp. This film follows his emotional return to Singapore.

Robert Day returns to the battlefields of Egypt by The National Lottery Community Fund

Robert Day served in World War 2 in Northern Africa as a tank engineer, getting them back to the front line. This film follows his return to El Alamein, Egypt where he visits the battlefields he fought on, military cemeterys and museums.

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


Jack Fowler Returns to the Far East with his wife Pearl Fowler by The National Lottery Community Fund

Pearl Fowler went back to the Far East with her husband who served there during the Second World and was the taken as a Prisoner of War. Pearl has recorded some of the most memorable parts of their trip.


Arrived with time to spare despite traffic. In duty free, do I treat myself?


Arrived in Hong Kong. Lost camera and spectacles, not to worry. Lovely meal in hotel and so to bed as very exhausted


Selling poppies at Great Pacific Mall in Central Hong Kong with fellow travellers


Remembrance Service in Central Hong Kong. Talking with Captain Alex Butterfield about being released by the Americans. Laying poppy wreaths at cenotaph. Went to Sai Wan Cemetery finding gravestones of several Suffolks, which was very emotional. Visited and left poppy cross at Jack Edwards grave, a very emotional day.


A day of shopping at Stanley Market. An experience travelling 1 hr by local bus and trying to barter with stall holders. It was very hot and clammy


Had a meal at the revolving restaurant, then onto the peak. Wonderful views, an exceptional day


Short flight and long car journey to reach hotel, settled in and got an early night as busy day tomorrow.


Visit the campsite of the copper mine Kinkasekid and the mining museum which has now become a tourist destination. Followed by visit to Keelung Harbour where all the prisoners landed after their long sea trips on the hell ships. From here they were taken by train so far and then a 10 mile march up a very steep track to the campsite carrying whatever kit they still had in their possession.


Historical & cultural tour


Jungle campsite for memorial service, all the locals were there to greet the P.O.W.’s with a band playing, drums beating and bugles playing. Met 90 yr old farmer who remembered the P.O.W’s time


Memorial services at Kinhaseki. Laying of wreaths. Last post played by trumpeter Andrew Tsao. Bagpipers played by Mal Turner whilst wreaths were laid. Prayers by Rev Diane Womg. Very emotional time when P.O.W’s paid tributes.

Accomodation available for Veterans travelling to Thailand by The National Lottery Community Fund
December 14, 2009, 12:09 pm
Filed under: Far East | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Mr John Riggs’s organisation has a building/apartments in Thailand that he would like to offer to any veterans visiting Thailand under the Heroes Return programme. The accommodation will be free. John’s contact details:

John Rigg

Northern School of Asia & Oriental Cooking CIC

Unit 19

Meeting Industrial Estate



LA14 4TL

Tel: 01229 829299