World War 2 scattered family members not only all over the country but all over the world too and the York family’s story must have been repeated countless thousands of times up and down the land.
Mr and Mrs Frank York of Park Avenue, Raunds at one time had four sons, one daughter and two sons-in-law serving their country, no doubt giving Mr York, a veteran himself of the Great War, and his wife, many hours of worry and concern.
An article appeared in a local newspaper towards the end of the war featuring the family:
Eldest son, Charles Roland, known to the family as Chris, who in peace time had worked in the shoe trade for Messrs Owen Smith of Stanwick, served in the Royal Navy, including a tour of duty on a patrol boat in the Thames.
Second son, Arthur William, known as Jack, another ex-employee of Owen Smith’s, was a member of the War Reserve Police Force.
Third son, George Douglas, also previously a shoe worker with Messrs Bignell Ltd, found himself in Burma, Ceylon and India with the Motor Transport section of the Northamptonshire Regiment.
Fourth son, Leonard Alwyn, was a sergeant in the Royal Air Force, seeing combat action as a wireless operator-air gunner with 217 Squadron of the RAF Volunteer Reserve in Malta. Before the war he had worked for the St Crispin Productive Society.
Sadly Len was posted as “missing” in the summer of 1942 and recorded as “officially presumed killed” early the next year, he was just 22. His name appears on the Malta Memorial, panel 4, column 2.
Youngest daughter, Olive, being single, was also called up, unlike her three older married sisters. She had been a machinist at Messrs Tebbutt and Hall Bros but became a private in the A.T.S.
So four local boot and shoe manufacturers were also deprived of five valuable workers at a time when they were almost certainly being asked for a greater contribution to the war effort by the War Office.
One son-in-law, who lived with his family in London, served in the Royal Artillery, with the terrors of the “blitz” eventually forcing his wife and children to return to the relative safety of Raunds.
The other son-in-law, previously with the Kettering Industrial Co-Operative Society dairy, was a member of the R.E.M.E. for duration of the hostilities.
The article also included an amusing account taken from a letter from Private George in Burma to his parents and titled “Raunds Soldier’s Fireman Act”.
Here he related the story of how he acted as a fireman when his hut, “which he built himself”, caught fire:
“We had a laugh this afternoon. I had got some clothes in a tin on the fire giving them a boil (he had to do all his own washing), and was talking to Bert Nash (of Ringstead) and two other chaps when I turned round and noticed my hut going up in flames.
I dashed forward and lifted the tin with my clothes in and slung the lot on the flames putting them out. Everybody had a good laugh at my fireman’s act, but I felt my little finger where I caught the bottom of the tin.”
But George continued on a more serious note “I don’t get any news of the European war these days, but I can guess the lads out there are still doing their stuff. It shouldn’t be so long now before Germany is finished. We out here are hoping that soon that war will be over, for it will make a lot of difference to this one.
I hope the people in England will learn of the great work done by our lads out here. They are great boys and anyone has to be here in the jungle to realise just how it really is.”
A sobering thought indeed for all of us living today and who hopefully will never have to endure such hardships.
Our thanks go to Mrs E Colson of Ringstead for providing the material on which this item is based. 10/2006.