War heroes remember the fallen
High spirits met heavy hearts at the British Legion on West Jesmond Road on Sunday 14 November, as war veterans, servicemen and civilians alike gathered to remember our fallen heroes.
Jesmond Local met some of the men and women who fought for freedom and lived to tell the tale.
George Henderson, 86
George served with the Royal Navy during the Second World War. As a gunner on landing craft he took part in seaborne invasions in Malta, Sicily and Normandy. On D-Day he served on board No. 8 Landing Ship, ferrying Canadian troops to Juno Beach. On his return to Newcastle in 1946 George joined the Co-operative, becoming chief cashier before moving on to Fenwicks as finance manager.
A keen writer and poet, while at sea he penned poems for fellow sailors to send back “to their wives and lovers, or both!” After the war he did not write again for 50 years but now writes a poem for Armistice Day every year, which is read out by Roz Grubb at the Legion club where he is now chairman. Since taking up the position earlier this year George has been part of the team that has brought the Legion back from the brink of bankruptcy. His previous employers, Fenwicks, kindly provided the carpeting and furniture for the Legion’s night-time entertainment venue, the Mixer, which George hopes will help to attract a new generation of clientele to the club.
Silvia Bradley, 76
Originally from South Wales, Silvia moved to Newcastle 15 years ago, to be closer to her daughter. Her late husband, Stanley, from Birmingham, was the only Englishman in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders pipe band. She was married twice previously, also to servicemen, one from the Army and the other the RAF. She recalled her time as a supervisor in the aircrew dining room at Bomber Command after the war, remembering the nervous wait for bombers to return and the relief when they did.
John Jagers, 97
Originally from the Netherlands, John moved to the UK in 1939, becoming a British citizen in 1948. He served as a marine engineer with the Royal Navy during the Second World War and has been a member of the Legion for 20 years. After the war he worked as an engineer at a power station until retiring and settling on the coast in North Shields.
He always makes his way to the Legion on Remembrance Day and said: “I’m glad to still be here, as an old sailor.” In particular he was thinking of his friends from the Merchant Navy who had died: “the Merchant Navy lost more sailors than many of the other forces during the war, and their sacrifice has never really been recognised.” More than 30,000 Merchant seamen lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic but little has ever been done to recognise the scale of their contribution to the war effort.
Jim Conway, 88
Jim , of Longbenton, visits the Legion on the first night of every month with the Tyneside branch of the Parchute Regiment Association. Before joining the Paras, Jim served in North Africa. He is one of five veterans who were dropped over Normandy during the D-Day invasion as part of the British 6th Airborne Division, 8th Battalion, the Paras. Of the 680 men who parachuted in on 6th June 1944, 120 were killed. More died three months later in Arnhem, Netherlands, during Operation Market Garden. On his mind on Sunday were “lots of mates who didn’t make it” through the war and his father, who died in 1938 aged 51, after being gassed and wounded during the First World War.
Fred Carr, 62
Fred was based in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, during the opening months of the Troubles in 1971. While there he survived a bomb blast at his barracks thanks to an injury sustained while boxing that saw him posted to the armoury. A year later, while stationed at the Aldershot headquarters of the 16th Parachute Brigade, he recalled hearing a loud bang, and feeling the floor shake. At first he believed a low flying plane had caused the disturbance but he quickly discovered it had in fact been caused by an IRA car bomb that destroyed the officers’ mess. Six civilian staff and a British Army Catholic Chaplain were killed and 18 people were wounded.
After leaving the service in 1975, Fred returned to Northern Ireland where he married and started a family. He remains a frequent visitor as his children and grandchildren still live there.
As ever, the British Legion is open to new members. Drop in to the bar for more information, or visit the Mixer website for details of upcoming events.