In honour of Remembrance Day, we have the privilege of sharing The Joy Club member Anna Treasure’s family story about her Uncle Ray and Aunt Betty, both of whom were involved in the national efforts during the Second World War…
Remembrance Day is a lovely opportunity to remember the wonderful things about those who are no longer with us. It always makes me think about my great uncle Ray and my great aunt Betty. Both were in the forces in the Second World War and both of them loved adventure.
Ray was born in South Wales, just as the First World War came to an end in 1918. Not long after he had completed his apprenticeship at the local print works, he was called up into the army to train as a Gunner. Little did he know that his first posting would take him to one of the most revered days of the war. He was to be part of the D-Day landings.
A local newspaper later interviewed him and reported on his war experiences, telling of both the excitement and devastation of war. ‘D-Day was Ray’s first taste of action. On the crossing Ray, a gunner, slept on the ammunition in his truck, but he comments wryly “I was more excited because I was seeing a foreign country for the first time. I had never been abroad before.”’
Of course it wasn’t all excitement as he also remembered the loss of men from his regiment. “The first thing that frightened me though was seeing dead soldiers on the beach. But even then you would not let yourself believe that you could die,” he explains. “The only time I thought of that was when we buried some of our own men. When you saw your own pals being stretched out, that’s when it came home to me.”
After D-Day, Ray’s regiment was one of the first across the Rhine. He saw action at Arnhem and, after the fall of Hamburg, was despatched to patrol the Dutch-German border to stop and capture escaping Nazis. He even managed to send home a photo from Hamburg, sitting on top of the gun he was in charge of.
Another photo he sent home was a photo of himself dressed in a German U-Boat commander’s coat and cap. I can only imagine that it was from someone they captured.
Meanwhile, Betty was starting her own war adventures. She had the choice of following her older sister into nursing at a local hospital or joining the Royal Airforce as one of the WAAFs and being posted out of South Wales. She chose the WAAFs and was soon on her way to a training camp on the south coast. Unfortunately, she was there in the depths of Winter and had to get up early and do exercises on the beach in the freezing cold, but the experience built a camaraderie with her fellow recruits.
After completing her training she was posted to Bicester Airfield where she was part of the team running the stores, ordering and despatching aircraft maintenance parts. However it was on her days off that she had her adventures. In later years she would excitedly tell me stories of hitchhiking around the country to visit friends or to get home on leave. But her biggest joy was being allowed to fly in one of the planes being delivered to another airfield. Having never been in a plane before, it was incredibly exciting. She loved her time in the WAAFs and regularly went to reunions to meet up with those she had met during the war years.
Ray and Betty always took the opportunity to attend the D-Day commemorations and felt very proud to have been able to represent South Wales. At one reunion Ray even managed to have his photo taken with the type of truck he drove off the boat and onto the beach on D-Day.
Ray and Betty married in 1947, and over the years, with their shared sense of adventure, they travelled extensively, often returning to Holland to meet up with friends Ray had made there during the war. Although the war years were the most difficult of their lives, they chose to always focus on the adventures they’d had and the people they’d met and it is for that sense of excitement and optimism that I will remember them both.
If you have any memories or reflections you would like to share this Remembrance Day, please do so over on The Joy Club forum.