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Local People in WW2: Bert Haddrell

Our Chairman, Ian Haddrell, has contributed his dad's story:

Today, our chairman Ian Haddrell has contributed a story about his father, who was wounded in 1944, and later went on to be actively involved in the Twinning movement:

"My father was a Bristolian, but for a number of years was a member of the Frampton Cotterell Twinning Association, and, with my mother, stayed with a German family on one of the association's regular visits to Kelbra in Germany. Quite an act of reconciliation after what he had experienced during the war.

Bert Haddrell was born in Bristol in 1925 and served in the 4th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment during the Second World War. He was badly wounded by a German Nebelwerfer (six barreled rocket launcher) on the 3rd August 1944 during the Battle for Normandy. After being tended in the field where he fell, Bert was taken to No.10 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), being diagnosed with ‘multiple mortar wounds back - penetrating chest’. In the afternoon of the 4th, and feeling more comfortable, Bert was transferred to 43rd Field Surgical Unit where he was operated on, the surgeon establishing for the first time the full extent of his injuries. He was eventually transferred, in September 1944, to Bangour Emergency Hospital, West Lothian (situated fourteen miles from Edinburgh) where he spent seven and a half months bed-ridden. He was then transferred to Wallhouse, a large private house, a mile to the west of Torphichen village and three miles north of Bathgate, to convalesce."




Bert's story:

‘My memory of VE Day is rather sad: like everyone else I was glad that the war had ended but it was a rather sad occasion for me. I was in a convalescent home in Torphichen, near Bathgate, West Lothian. I had been in hospital for a year (seven and a half months confined to bed) after being wounded in the invasion of France, but was making progress.

Whilst in hospital I made friends with another young fellow who came from Dunfermline (also named Bert) and as I came from Bristol I did not have many visitors. When his mother visited him, she would talk to me as well and invariably brought me some fruit, sweets, etc., which I greatly appreciated, being so far from home. When her son, Bert, went home for a weekend I was invited as well and she was very kind to me, making me most welcome as only Scots people can.

I met her other son, who was in the Army, and stationed somewhere in England. Soon after this he was on Army exercises, and was tragically drowned. I had only known him slightly but I think that, perhaps because I had been in the Forces, they asked me if I would attend his funeral. I felt it was the right and proper thing to do out of courtesy, and the funeral was fixed for what turned out to be VE Day.

I had to make my own way from Bathgate to Dunfermline (a distance of approximately twenty-five miles) by public transport, which was a restricted service, and took quite a long time. However, I did get there in time for the funeral and paid my respects. The family treated me very well, even in the midst of their grief, were most particular to look after me, and were very grateful for the fact that I had attended. After the service I had to make the return journey by public transport, and arrived back quite late at the convalescent home at Torphichen.

My VE Day memory was tinged with sadness, but it is a day I will never forget. The war in Europe was over, I had survived, though wounded, whereas many of my comrades had paid the supreme sacrifice, and looked forward to going home. I was just twenty years old, and was discharged as unfit for military service on the 26th July 1945.’

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