After dad pulled that woman out alive he saw hundreds of dead bodies in wrecked air raid shelter... he went missing for three days
recalls a story Albert told of successfully retrieving a bomb from Brighton Pier and leaving it under guard.
“As he finished for the day and walked back along the promenade the bomb exploded and he ran back in terror, thinking the guard must have been killed.
“Instead he came walking out of a nearby cafe with a mug of tea saying ‘What was that all about?’.”
John, who was a baby at the time, said: “Dad was lucky. There were countless times when he could have been killed but he had some amazing escapes.
“Once he was supposed to go to the Norwegian coast on a raid but his appendix burst overnight and he had to go to hospital in London.
“The chap who went in his place was killed by a direct hit from a bulldozer bomb.”
Another escape came shortly after when the hospital in which Albert was being treated for his appendicitis was hit by a V-1 flying bomb.
John says: “He was too ill to go down into the shelters like everyone else so the nurses left him with mattresses piled on top of him for protection.
“The V-1 took out the centre of the building and glass shot through all the mattresses on top of dad. When the nurses came back they found a piece of glass had gone straight through to the metal springs of the bed after shooting right through the gap between his legs.
“In that one day he cheated death three times by surviving appendicitis, escaping a bomb blast and then the glass shard missing his legs.”
After the war Albert, originally from Camden, North London, worked for decades as an engineer.
He was married to John’s mum Violet for 38 years before he died in 1979 at the age of 60 from complications after a heart attack. John, from Chippenham, Wilts, remembers him as a “brave, generous, yet calm man, who didn’t tend to be dramatic” – as shown in the moving Blitz image. After he first spotted the photo, John sent it to his mum who was living in South Africa.
With it he attached a note: “Is there anything in here that you recognise?”
When Violet returned to Britain in 2000, three years before her death, John surprised her by presenting her with a print from the original negative.
He says: “I never knew the photo existed and neither did dad.
“We are still not sure who took it although we think it was a newspaper
AFTER SPOTTING WARTIME PHOTO
photographer. We also don’t know what happened to the woman he rescued alive from the rubble.”
John, who has just celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary to wife Janet, felt compelled to share his story after spotting the colourised photograph in the Daily Mirror.
He says: “Dad’s war stories inspired me to go into the RAF when I was a teenager.
“He was incredibly lucky being able to survive the war and grow up to see his grandchildren.
“And, after everything he went through and everything he saw, he died of natural causes.
“I do see him as a hero.”
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HEROIC DEED Brave Albert, circled, in iconic image and, left, in uniform WEDDING Albert and bride Violet
MEMORIES Baby John with Violet
PROUD Albert’s son John