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


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



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

Burrow-in-Furness

Cumbria

LA14 4TL

Tel: 01229 829299



Memories of Adrano by The National Lottery Community Fund
December 9, 2009, 11:43 am
Filed under: Italy | Tags: , , , , , , ,


One of the towns we passed through was called Adrano and the impression it made on me was sufficient to inspire the only poem I have ever written or am likely to write. Apart from a slight alteration to the last few lines it remains as I wrote it some sixty years ago and I print it here without comment.”

Darkness was falling as we entered the town, but t’was light enough still to see
The shattered ruins of what had been, a town, in Sicily.
It wasn’t much to call a town, compared with those of greater size.
It wasn’t built for modern war and now a stinking heap it lies,
Rotting beneath the azure skies, of Sicily.

It seemed as if an angry God had run amok with gory hands,
Then dropped a veil, a canopy, of dirty, blinding, choking sands
And as to wreak his vengeance more
Had propped a body in each door

We drove on by with sober thought,
Of those poor b******s who’d been caught,
We grimaced at the sick, sweet, smell, of this small piece of man made hell
This could be you, the bodies said, this could be you, soon gone, soon dead
We hurried by, enough to be, alive that day, in Sicily”



Jack Fowler serving in the Army during World War Two by The National Lottery Community Fund
December 3, 2009, 10:35 am
Filed under: memorial | Tags: , , , , , ,

This picture shows a young Jack Fowler in the middle of his friends that he saw service with in the Second World War



Jo Wood from BIG’s East of England office attends Jack Fowler filming by The National Lottery Community Fund
December 3, 2009, 10:29 am
Filed under: Far East | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Jack Fowler from Oulton Broad near Lowestoft was a prisoner-of-war at Kinkaski prison camp in Taiwan for over three years. The grant enabled Jack to return to Taiwan and Hong Kong with his wife Pearl and daughter Bridget at the beginning of November.  When I visited Jack he was being filmed for one of the short films BIG is producing about veterans returning to the places where they saw combat. It was utterly amazing to hear about Jack’s experiences that he remembers so well, and that vividly depict the horror and chaos of war – experiences that I can only imagine. Jack also showed me many photographs from his days in the army – some of him a young boy of 16 technically too young to enlist but he did so nevertheless. He also showed me a photograph of his father, a soldier in the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) in the First World War.

Jack’s spoke of his trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong as atime for him to remember the men, some of them his good friends, that didn’t make it back from the POW camp, and also to meet up with the men who survived and share their stories.

It was an honour to meet Jack and his wife Pearl who made the film crew and I very welcome. Jack was a natural in front of the camera too which made life very easy for the film crew!



Final thoughts by The National Lottery Community Fund
November 26, 2009, 11:47 am
Filed under: Africa | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Filed under: Africa | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Filed under: Africa | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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
Filed under: Africa | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Filed under: Africa | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.