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, 8 July 2016

Recollections of the Liberation of Turnhout June 2016

Following on from my earlier correspondence with Francis, I contacted the local museum in Turnhout to enquire about the availability of an article entitled ‘In het spoor van de IJsberen’ (‘Tracing the Polar Bears’) that was published in the local annual journal Taxandria in 2008. An archivist from the museum duly responded and confirmed my suspicions that the article, whilst available, is in Dutch (a language over which I have no command whatsoever).

However, the helpful archivist also provided me with another contact within the town, a gentleman by the name of Jacques Boone. I subsequently emailed Jacques with my now well-rehearsed potted history of my Grandfather’s service, the website and book plans and within a couple of hours I received the following reply:

Dear Mr Andrews,

Many thanks for your interesting mail.  Every information  about the  11th Btn, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, does interest me very much, indeed. On 24th September 1944,  as a 17 years old boy, I was living in Turnhout and attended the liberation of the town,( I kept it vivid  in my memory, almost as if it happened yesterday) by the 49th Reconnaissance Rgt of the 49th Polar Bear Division,  followed immediately by the 11 Btn, the R.S.F. and the 7th Btn, the Duke of Wellington’s Rgt. 

My text  on the liberation of Turnhout  was published by “Forces War Records”in their Magazine , issue 10, Special Edition , ‘Your Stories’, December 2015. Some photographs of me were  shot on 24th September 1944 by a late cousin of mine, on the Turnhout Market square , while I was fraternizing with  the Recces.

A friend of mine, Ken West, was a  member of the 11th RSF. Hereby some correspondence. I read his book “An’ it’s called a tam- o’- Shanter”, Ken’s war memoires.   I opened my contact to him with  my letter of 1st October 2007, I asked him if he knew the 11th RSF man whose  photograph I had taken in Normandy in 2007.  Ken did not;  he actually  did not “liberate” Turnhout,  on 24th September 1994 he was in an hospital in England, in treatment for severe burn wounds he  had gotten in action on the Normandy front.

I am convinced that my friend John Peters (address provided)  knows  English very well  and I am almost certain  he could give  you some interesting data . Tell him I gave you his address.

With kind regards,

Jacques Boone
Member of the 49th (WR) Infantry Division  Association.

Belgian teenagers and British tank crew on a Sherman (Jacques Boone is standing third on the left, in a long raincoat)
Turnhout 24th September 1944
(photograph taken by Fran├žois Boone (Jacques's late cousin) and shared courtesy of Jacques Boone)

I replied, thanking Jacques for the link to his article and the additional contact. I explained that Ken West was indeed a mutual acquaintance and sent on a photograph of Ken and I in Leicester in 2015. In addition,

Jacques bounced back with another prompt email:

Dear Adrian,

Thank you for the nice photograph of you with Ken.  The last time of our meeting was in 2014, in Normandy, in front of the Polar Bear monument at Fontenay-le-Pesnel. He was leading an important group of Normandy Veteran Association members. What a pity this association has been dissolved. We met several times in October at a memorial ceremony  at Wuustwezel in Belgium  next the PBA monument  and also one time at Merksplas, at the monument of Cpl John HARPER, VC.

My motto is: Remember ! Often, I attend ceremonies , last week to remember crashes  of 3 RAF bomber command bombers, for a Manchester, a Halifax and a Stirling at the village of Kasterlee.  I had again the pleasure of meeting there British and Canadian acquaintances to members of the crews. I had to make a speech in English at the Manchester monument.

Kind regards,


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