1 October 2013

a family tree for me

I have been trying to do some research on my family tree. To some extent it's quite easy. I know that my dad has his mother's tree somewhere and my mother has some of hers, but certain things are proving harder.
The most significant one being my search for what my Granddad did in the war. I knew that he had been a pilot, so I started with just a simple name search in Google. Nothing. What made it harder is I couldn't find any exact matches on his name and, although his first name is unusual as such, it is a not uncommon surname... So I ended up with loads of results for people who are nothing to do with anything.
Adding in his middle initial actually made it worse as I then got a whole load of results for a certain Hollywood actor! I needed to find some more specific information on him.
I hunted for any way to find his squadron number, because I hoped it would narrow it down. But with no idea where to start I was clutching at straws. My mum helped with that though and told me had been in the 602 Squadron from Glasgow. Typing them in brought up a museum! Brilliant.
We spent a happy hour or so scouring all the pictures on the site and were convinced we'd located him in a couple. There was a contact form and so I acted daft and asked them if they might have any record of him and whether they might have his service number as that would help our search immensely.
And they sent me the most amazing answer. Not just because they sent me his service number, or that they attached some photos to it. But they sent me a message from someone who had trained with him! They asked if I would like his email address and I just couldn't quite believe it. I had tacitly assumed there would be no-one left.
My mother now has the address and plans to contact him asap. We're fascinated to know if he can answer some of our questions. My grandfather told my mother that he was responsible for the shooting of Rommel's staff car (it's quite a famous incident) and even though someone else had been given the credit, it was actually him.
Now my grandfather had a wicked sense of humour, but he was never given to flights of fancy and something about the way he told the story as if he was reliving it made my mother believe him. She says the most convincing part is actually at the beginning of his tale. She says they spotted a staff car (because they didn't know who was in it) driving along a road at the top of an embankment and that either side was a disgusting green, sludge-filled ditch. Granddad had thought that if he shot at it whoever was inside would have to leap out and into the ditch (told you he had a wicked sense of humour) so he fired off what was the last of his ammo (he was returning from some other mission at the time). Took some pictures as that was what he was trained to do and then flew back to base. (Probably chuckling to himself all the way!)
It was once he was back in base that they learned who had been in the car. It was apparently very obvious from the photos. I also believe he had been upset as most people had some respect for Rommel, the desert fox. Now, as I said, we have no way of verifying this as my granddad passed away nearly 10 years ago and someone else has the credit. But it is quite convincing. And then we want to know how he ended up in Burma. Because 602 Squadron didn't. He flew with them until late 1944. Actually, until not long after the Rommel incident. Then suddenly, he is in Burma and spent the rest of the war in India and Burma!
Was he disciplined for the incident? Is that why he left the squadron, again, we have no idea. And, if it is just a made up story, why did he move? I know he was also shot down over the Normandy coast by friendly fire and picked up by the Navy. They deposited him in England and he had to make his own way back from there!
He flew over 100 missions over Germany and was an experienced pilot. I am very proud of what he did. I just wish I had more details. The photos that the 602 Squadron Museum sent show him by a plane in a group shot, in an amazing cartoon and also on a mess list.

He's so obvious to me in both those pictures, as soon as I saw them I spotted him. In the group shot he is standing under the propeller, the row of three at the far right. In the cartoon he is top row centre, with a brilliant caption! And, if you can see that mess list he's about in the middle of the second column.
Has anyone else searched for their family? How did you get on, I'd love to know. 


Anonymous said...

That cartoon is fab :) rockaardvark

Anonymous said...

did you ever find anything else out??

Pearl Sanguine said...

Mum got sent a whole load more stuff from Grandads training buddy and is going to send off for his service record.

She keeps meaning to send it on to me and then forgetting. I shall write an updated post when I get more info :)