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Remembrance: Stories of the fallen through archive press clippings

We have been sent many amazing Stories by families of those commemorated on the memorial, but we are also discovering contemporary stories that were published in the local press in 1944. The local papers would often have a regular column in which they reported on those from the area who were serving in the Forces. Some were news pieces from men serving overseas whilst others informed readers about a death in action. They provide valuable information about the people serving, including home address, family background, work and leisure activities they did before they joined up.

From the War Notes and News section in the Penrith Observer, we learnt that Private Donald Lawson, who died of wounds in Normandy, was an apprentice and worked at the Alhambra Cinema, Penrith. He was also a keen amateur boxer. Pte Lawson kept up his boxing after joining the Army and won a number of prizes. He had initially joined the Home Guard, with his friend Private Fred Grainger, and then they volunteered for the Services. They served together until Pte Grainger was posted to the Airborne Division. Wondering what happened to Donald’s friend, a search revealed that, in a later edition of the Lancashire Post, it was reported that he had been captured and became a Prisoner of War in Germany.


Source: Penrith Observer – Tuesday 11 July 1944, p2

The newspaper articles also give us information about the families. The Surrey Advertiser of 15 July 1944 reported that L-Sergt James (Jim) Edwards was killed in action in Normandy in June. As well as detailing his war service overseas we discover that before the war he worked at Timothy Whites and Taylors and he got married in October 1939 to Mollie (née Sole). He and Mollie had a young son whom he had only recently seen for the first time when he came back to Britain.

Sometimes we are lucky enough to find a photo of the person being mentioned. Pte Glynne Roberts was reported killed in Normandy and the press clipping quotes from the letter his family received from his commanding officer. It gives details not only about when he was killed but how he was thought of by his fellow servicemen.

Source: North Wales Weekly News – Thursday 03 August 1944, p7

But sometimes we find out that some families experienced more than one loss. The Londonderry Sentinel of 01 July 1944 reported that three months after the death from wounds in Italy of her son, Lance-Corporal Andrew Galbraith, Mrs Rutherford, Dundee, St Johnston, County Donegal, was informed that another son, Sapper Thomas Galbraith, had been killed in Normandy.

And the Aberdeen Weekly Journal published a piece about Captain Donald Spence. It reports that Capt Spence was killed by a sniper while leading an attack, just a few weeks after being promoted to captain. But the article starts by saying that his father, Sergeant-Major R. Spence, had been killed at Ypres in the First World War.


Source: Aberdeen Weekly Journal, 07 September 1944, p5

As well as news articles, families also sent in notice of Deaths. Some were rather factual but every now and again they would include a poem in the notice. I have come across this poignant quote a few times, in this instance included in the notice for Pte David Cruickshank. It seems to sum up most effectively the effect that the losses in Normandy had on the families back home:

A soldier’s grave in a far-off land
Holds one I love most dear;
A smiling face that won’t come home
When they sound the last all clear.

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