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.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Further Correspondence With Ken West

It was a couple of weeks after Christmas and I was getting a little concerned as I was waiting on a letter from Ken. A prompt correspondent, it was unusual not to hear word and I was hoping nothing was amiss. Then one Saturday afternoon, a letter was posted through the door. It had been opened and the envelope bore the words 'Opened in error'. So here was my letter at last and all was well!

8 Jan 2016

Dear Adrian,

Thank you for your letter and good wishes, your Polar Bear Christmas card was most welcome and apt!

Yes, it was heartening to see that Dennis had given such good coverage of our stories, which does show the power of writing for information and the results that it brings.

In response to my story of the "Polar Bear On The Prowl", I received a letter from Milwaukee USA. A new PBA member Mike Hamilton who said that his father was awarded the DSO for his part in the Battle of Haalderen, presumably with the 7th Dukes as a Major (later Lt. Col) so would have been a Company Commander.

Mike and his son are planning to visit Holland in November and asked for any information, so I have got Steve to email a sketch map & photos of the Church & the monument to him. He is working in the Phillipines until March so his only contact is email. As his father would have been in the thick of the battle he welcomed the help received from "D" Coy RSF in repelling the attack in which 50 Germans were killed and 110 taken prisoner. As your Grandfather would have been embroiled in this battle I will keep you informed of any information coming from Mike as his father did a write up in the Duke's Journal.

Like you Adrian, I am eagerly awaiting the publishing of "Some Were Lucky", the time to get it to the busy printers was underestimated because of the Christmas requirements. However, it should be at the printers in the next 2-3 weeks.

The visit to Amsterdam in May looks very promising and Steve & I look forward to seeing you there. Like your nearness to Stansted, we may consider Birmingham-Schipol to avoid the day long journey by road. 

The photographs you refer to were all taken by a local photographer Carl Huth at Ludenscheid in July 1945. He went to each Company to record all members of 11th RSF. Some, of course, would have been on UK leave, otherwise it was a record of the men who'd been in action with the Battalion. 

At Christmas I received a card from the son of my old "digging in" mate George, who enclosed half a dozen snaps taken at Ludenscheid, but they are of poor quality, but most welcome nevertheless as they show the mounting of the guard which took place each evening. They record the _______ by the piper to the Flagstaff at Battalion HQ, the piper's lament and last post, which at first the locals thought was to celebrate Victory, when told that it was to remember the fallen of all soldiers some 100 people would attend, including some Germans from the local hospital, which lead to an easing of tension and making our stay at Ludenscheid so enjoyable!

Best Wishes to you all


PS I read Bill Irwin's book, lent to me by Jack (Dixie) Dean Sgt Mortar later RSM 1st Leics. Bill received MM at the ___________ in Belgium. Sadly both are now dead but they were great raconteurs! 

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