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'Toby' William Albert Jay

This story and photos are shared by the Trust with kind permission from Peter Jay, son of Toby Jay

My father was born in 1915. He was always known as Toby which I understand was the first word he ever said (there was a dog in the street named Toby!). He was born and brought up in Looe, Cornwall where he excelled at football, table tennis and he had an excellent baritone voice.

His parents were quite poor and he left school at fourteen and served an apprenticeship as a stone mason. He was a very much loved half of a pair of brothers - I was very fortunate to have been influenced by his brother, Jack. The story goes that my mother, who was privately educated and working as a secretary in the family garage business, took a shine to this handsome young workman who passed her office each day. The family were outraged and forbade her to see this working-class labourer but she defied the family and met him at the local cinema where he had an evening job. Eventually, Toby picked a bunch of flowers and won over the women of the family and they were married in 1936. Mum always spoke of him as if he was about to walk in the door - it was very clear that they were very much in love.

My mother was a very accomplished pianist and she accompanied my father in concerts, generally in the local Methodist Chapels. My brother, Barry, was born in 1941 and Toby joined up in 1942 with the single purpose of sorting out Adolf single handed!

During his service in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI) he was stationed initially in Bodmin but wherever he was posted mum would find bed and breakfast accommodation to be near him whenever she could.

He wrote to her daily for 2 years. All his letters to mum are addressed in her handwriting as she provided the envelopes for him. We donated the letters to the IWM after mum died. Some of the letters are unopened being returned to her after his death but I have read the one he wrote after I was born on May 19th 1944 when he managed to get leave to see me. He described me as a "cheeky chap"!

The letters are full of love. My daughter helped me to catalogue the letters in date order. We soon realised that there was a 2 week gap of no letters. This was 9 months before I was born. We can only assume that he was home on leave!

My father sailed to France on his birthday, June 8th, and one of the letters says that the only Germans he saw were dead ones. He had been transferred to the Durham Light Infantry and on June 19th they were heavily involved in a battle at Tilly-sur-Seulles which is on the road from Bayeux to Caen. Most of his platoon were killed in very fierce fighting. I have visited Tilly on many occasions. It is very obvious that it had been subjected to intense bombing - most of the buildings look as if they were built post-war.

Mum received a telegram on July 19th with the sad news of his death. She was devastated, as were his parents who never got over it, and both died at an early age. My grandfather could not talk to me about Toby without crying.

As a child I was very fortunate to grow up in a village where my father was revered and I was surrounded by a loving family and friends. I went to the local Grammar School and then Teacher Training College and then University and have had a career in teaching for over 40 years. I have always felt that I had my father with me. Mum lived to 95 and had vascular dementia to the extent that she thought I was my father which brought her some peace at the end.

FALLEN HEROES

  • WILLIAM ALBERT JAY

    Army • CORPORAL

    Durham Light Infantry
    8th Battalion

    DIED 19 June 1944

    AGE 29

    SERVICE NO. 5444928

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