Af­ter dad pulled that wo­man out alive he saw hun­dreds of dead bodies in wrecked air raid shel­ter... he went miss­ing for three days

Daily Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - SQUARE EYES -

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.”

DO you know the iden­tity of the wo­man be­ing res­cued by Al­bert? If so, email laura.con­nor@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

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

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