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.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A Veteran Responds - August 2015

Upon returning from a family holiday in August, I was thrilled to find a hand addressed letter bearing a Midland postmark.

Ken had replied with a very informative and encouraging letter:

24 Aug 2015

Dear Adrian,

Thank you for your most welcome letter regarding your Grandfather Jim Heath. Unfortunately I didn’t know him but I can answer a lot of your queries. 

Interesting that he joined the N. Staffs, my brother Ernest was a “Belisha Boy” of the January 1940 intake and was posted to Litchfield with the N. Staffs, after a spell in hospital he transferred to the Royal Sigs (DR).

Jim, with the “Pit Head Div” (59 Div) certainly took a battering around Caen, we had two lads come to the Signals Ptn and men from the rifle Coys were absorbed. Joining us on Aug 26 he would have been in the area of Ponte de la Rogue on the Seine, before the detour south of Rouen at Elbouf, before taking position at Montevilliers for the attack on Le Harve (12 Sept). After 5 days rest at Luneray nr Dieppe, they went, unopposed to Turnhout-Antwerp Canal (Sept 25).

If he was with Sgt Little, he would have been in 16 Ptn”D” Coy. Little, along with Sgt Louis Hill 17 Ptn were awarded the MM in Normandy. Therefore he would have been on the “Commando Raid” in March (11th) which took place to our front at Haalderen. The raid started at 6 am and the order to withdraw at 8 am. In that 2 hours they secured prisoners & killed quite a number. Derek Potter (to whom my book was dedicated) as bren gunner and his 2 I/C & Sgt Little were the 3 killed. 7 wounded. The information gathered from this exercise was of great importance for the action of clearing the Island, so Jim would have been wounded during this operation . There was an article in PBN about 12-18 months ago by Maj Leslie Rowell I/C “D” Coy. Leslie was from Bristol – his daughter lives just outside Leicester & I met him a couple of times although he didn’t take over “D” Coy until Turnhout. We had 2 great afternoons talking of old friends. I asked him what his instructions were for the raid and he said Col Eyrkyn had told him to land, create mayhem & bring back prisoners! It must have been the most decorated action of the European Campaign, 1 DSO, 1 DSM, 2 MC, 3 MM (one of the MCs was Lt Douglas, the Colonel you referred to).

I notice on the photo Jim is wearing the insignia of 30 Corps. General Brian Horrocks (A Bridge Too Far) and TV documentaries, was the G.O.C. in which we’d all served in Normandy (pleased to see that Jim got a “back room” job after hospital!!)

I’m sorry that you didn’t include your phone number in the letter, it was so full of interesting queries and I would be pleased to help you in your research.

I was talking to Dennis about Stan Davies life story and he said that it was a great pity that so few veterans recorded their stories. Which set me thinking. After our visit to Holland in May, my son Steve, told friends, every time I go with my Dad with the Polar Bears I find out more about him. I know I wrote “Tam-O-Shanter” but I’m now writing my memoirs from Sept 1939 to my demob in June 1947. 1939-call-up- 1 yr training for D Day, RSF, Army of Occupation 2 yrs Germany, Italy and Austria.

Must stop now to catch the post – could write all night! Please ring!

Yours sincerely

14638023 West K.J. Fus (R’td)

In the wake of this letter were a series of phone calls in which we agreed to meet after Ken's next trip to Holland in September. A date was agreed for 18th October.

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