The intentions to document this information are long standing in that they go back some two decades to the early/mid 1990’s, just a few years before the subject of this site, James Kitchener Heath passed away.

As is the case in so many families in which a generation experienced war and all its traumas, certain aspects of service are known, but all too often the details are sketchy and disjointed. Add into this mix the passage of time and the result is invariably a collection of stories and fragments of memories accompanied by a handful of fragile and faded documents (if you are lucky) that represent the sum of information relating to the most extraordinary period in a soldier’s life. This was certainly the case in our family..... and it’s not much to go on.

In February 1995, my Father and I struggled to put together a potted service history to be read by the cleric presiding over my Grandfather’s funeral. At this point I decided to take steps to fill in some of the gaps as best I could.... sadly now without the benefit of first hand testimony.

A well known turn of phrase, ‘written on the back of a fag packet’ is defined by the Collins on-Line dictionary as something ‘composed or formed quickly and without detailed analysis or research’. As far as first hand source material for this history is concerned, no better a description could be made. The details gleaned from my Grandfather in brief (and often emotional) discussions in the 1990’s are summarised as a list of place names written in an old man’s shaky handwriting on the back of a standard envelope! (this will feature later). On the upside, a standard envelope is approximately twice the size of a cigarette packet, which immediately doubles the amount of information to work with!

By my own admission, this site is a little self-indulgent, being of primary interest to myself, my mother, my children and a handful of relatives still living in Staffordshire. In addition, it may be that the information presented here will be read by others outside of the family who have a passing interest in military or family history.

I would welcome any comments/suggestions or dare I say it relevant information to contact me.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Another Proud Family Record - The Sentinel 19th May 1943

The newspaper cutting above comes from The Sentinel which was then, as now, the daily evening paper for the Stoke-On-Trent area. This piece entitled ‘Another Proud Family Record’ appeared on the evening of 19th May 1943.

The photograph features the family members in service at that time who were related in some way to Mr and Mrs J. Griffiths of 40 Albemarle Road, Cross Heath, Newcastle-Under-Lyme. These were my Grandmother’s parents. My Grandfather, Jim Heath is pictured top right in a Staffordshire Regiment tunic is the common denominator in this story, as he was married to June Griffiths, daughter of the proud parents.

Of the other men and women featured I know a little.

Private J. Griffiths (North Staffordshire Regiment), pictured top left.

Known to me as Joe, apart from my Grandfather he was the relative in this picture that I remember most of. He was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs J. Griffiths. During the war he served in Burma and for his trouble he contracted malaria, bouts of which would trouble him throughout the rest of his life. He would occasionally drive down from Staffordshire to Sussex to arrive at my Grandparent’s house unannounced on a Friday night. This was never a problem for my Grandmother, as they were very close. Sadly, Joe died shortly after retiring from the Mother’s Pride Bakery. After his death, his family made efforts to obtain the Burma Star to which he was entitled.

Corporal W. Griffiths (RAF), top second from the left.

William, known to his family as Bill, served in the Merchant Navy in the pre-war years before a transfer to the RAF. Of the family, Bill was what could be considered to be something of a ‘Jack The Lad’. Like Joe, he would turn up in Sussex unannounced, but then disappear to who knows where. I would have met him at a family reunion for my Grandmother in 1986 in Clayton I believe it was. Even then, I am told he put in an appearance late in the evening, only to disappear again shortly afterwards. He died in Newcastle-Under-Lyme.

Private L. Griffiths (Cheshire Regiment), top middle

Len’ war time activities are unknown to me, but according to my mother, he spent time in Korea (this would have been in service after the war). Injured by shrapnel in the legs, this affected him throughout life. Len died young, in his forties, from thrombosis, attributable to wounds received in service.

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