‘Forgotten’ papers unearth wartime stories of bravery

The grocery shop of George Johnson in Sutton St James. Left to right: Linda Spinks, Janet Heanes (Stanley Chapman's cousin), Freda Johnson (George's sister), George Johnson, Stanley Chapman.
The grocery shop of George Johnson in Sutton St James. Left to right: Linda Spinks, Janet Heanes (Stanley Chapman's cousin), Freda Johnson (George's sister), George Johnson, Stanley Chapman.
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Last month in our newspaper (November) we published a page of service records from two World War II welcome home dinners.

The papers featured the names of many men and women from Sutton St James, who served their country.

Cyril Banks.

Cyril Banks.

We asked you to get in touch if you recognised any of the names on the documents.

And the response has been fascinating.

The papers were brought in to us by reader Neville Woodthorpe.

He found them while sorting through bits and pieces at home and felt they “ought not to be in a drawer.”

My father was taken prisoner and put to work on the ‘death railway’

Mike Chapman

Mike Chapman (67), who now lives in Surfleet, recognised the name Stanley Chapman on one of the records, as his father.

Stanley was listed as having served from March 1940 until October 1945.

Mike said: “Among those listed in the service records was my late father Stanley. “He was unfortunately captured in the fall of Singapore in 1942 and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner of the Japanese.

“Father was born in Sutton St James in 1919, the son of farmer Stanley Chapman.

Mike Chapman's dad Stanley Chapman, who was a prisoner of war in World War II. He is aged around 21 here, when he was called up to the Army.

Mike Chapman's dad Stanley Chapman, who was a prisoner of war in World War II. He is aged around 21 here, when he was called up to the Army.

“After leaving school he worked at George Johnson’s general store until being called up into the army in 1940 at the age of 21.

“After being taken prisoner, he was put to work along with many other allied prisoners, on the so-called ‘death railway’ in Thailand where many of his friends and colleagues died.

“Father had by all accounts had a very traumatic time as a prisoner of war and as a boy I remember him saying very little about his time in the Far East.

“On his return back to the UK in late 1945, he weighed only six and a half stone, and found to his sadness that his mother had, unbeknownst to him, passed away.

Surfleet General Stores, now Surfleet Fish and Chip shop. Photo provided by Mike Chapman. The store was run by his father Stanley.

Surfleet General Stores, now Surfleet Fish and Chip shop. Photo provided by Mike Chapman. The store was run by his father Stanley.

“After arriving home he continued working for Mr George Johnson in Sutton St James, marrying his wife Ruth Chambers in 1946.

“He worked for Mr Johnson until 1953 when he moved to Surfleet with his young wife, and three year old me, their first born.

“There he took over the village grocery store, which is now Surfleet Fish and Chip shop.

“My younger brother Keith was born in 1957.

“Father continued to run the shop and also his mobile grocery round until his untimely death at the age of 59 in 1979, no doubt weakened by his experiences and ill treatment as a prisoner in the Far East.”

The two welcome home dinners at Sutton St James Church Hall were held on April 30, 1946, and January 27, 1947.

Sheila Palmer (60), of Holbeach Clough, also recognised two of the names on the service records we published.

Cyril Banks, her father, was listed as serving between June 1940 and February 1949.

The records said he landed in France on D-Day, with the number 10 and the initials B.A.O.R next to his name.

The initials are thought to mean British Army of the Rhine, which was an occupational army in Germany at the end of the war but Sheila said she would love to know which regiment her father was attached to.

She said: “We lived in Sutton St James and ran the local grocery and draper shop in the centre of the village.”

Sheila also recognised the name Patrick Jones, who was recorded as serving between December 1939 to February 1946.

“He was my uncle,” she said.

The listing below his name read: Evacuated from Dunkirk. 8th Army from El Alamein to Italy. To France on D Day + 40.

Mr Woodthorpe, who found the documents that belonged to his mother, said: “I’m really pleased with the feedback.

“I’ve also since found that there are some names on the back of one of the booklets for the welcome home dinners.

“I think they were autographs of the entertainers at the dinners and my mum had asked them to sign them. “One was Burt Bradshaw, I believe, who I think was well-known at the time . He was an organist and singer.

“The other names I think was somebody Johnson, maybe Danny, and also someone called Harry.”

Mr Woodthorpe’s mother Dorothy was president of Sutton St James Women’s Institute for a time, which organised the welcome home dinners.

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