Family Life Lines

Posted on March 10, 2011 by

I was chatting a few months ago with my dad and his sister about the family, and, unusually, my dad began to talk about his oldest brother, Joe, whom he had never really mentioned at all in all the years I can remember. My aunt suddenly remembered that she had a plastic bag with some ‘stuff’ in it in her spare room, which might be of interest to me. This bag turned out to hold the most precious of cargos – in it, neatly banded and still in their original envelopes, were all of the letters which Joe and his mother had written to each other during the period from when he started his RAF training, right through his active operations, and to the end of the war.
Joe was my dad’s (Brian) oldest brother. My dad is the youngest of 4 children, and he was born in 1934, so grew up during the war years. He never really knew his father, who died when he was a very young boy. My Nan (dad’s mother), was left alone with 4 kids to raise in a poor area of Birmingham, without a husband, and had to go out to work to keep them fed.
I never knew my Uncle Joe. In fact my dad hardly knew him either. He was about 9 years my father’s senior, so was doing very grown up things when my dad was still just a lad.
Joseph joined the RAF very young as a teenager. He became a Flight Sergeant and gunner with 218 Gold Coast Squadron, and flew Stirling and Lancaster Bomber sorties across the Channel and into Germany during the second world war.

There were many others like Joe, but what makes his story remarkable is this:-
Joe was shot down (on his virgin mission!) into the sea, off the Coast of Holland. The crew returned home, unhurt, incredibly, but covered from head to toe in yellow dye, making his mum scream when she answered the door to him!
Joe survived the war, but then died tragically at the age of 22 in a military hospital from cancer. This almost destroyed his mother.
His letters have been read and transcribed by my dad for the first time, 65 years later, profoundly affecting him, and bringing back to life the brother whom he never really knew.
His story inspired me, so many years later, to create a website so that these precious family stories will never be lost.
In his letters, Joe talks of his training manoeuvres, fun and pranks with the other squaddies (one has to remember they were such young boys), his love for a teenage girl, whom he intended to marry (much to his mother’s chagrin), and his fears and feelings during active sorties.

Having been in touch with the Gold Coast Squadron Association, we, unbelievably, came across an account (written by one of Joe’s former crew members) of the days leading up to their first mission, and their ‘ditching.’ I have attached an extract for you to read here. What strikes me the most about this whole story is the ordinary detail of daily events – this is what makes the whole episode so human and real, and makes me proud to be associated with one of these young men. My Uncle is the ‘Mac’ referred to here (lots of Joe’s apparently, all needing nicknames!)

Obviously, there is so much more to this story than I have outlined for you here, but I hope you will find it of interest.

The combination of my mother’s life story and the effect of re-living Uncle Joe’s story had such a profound effect on me that I developed this new website, designed to help others save the memories and events of their lives on a chronological timeline.

Since there is no limit to the number of lifelines which can be created, it is a perfect vehicle for capturing the development of children, or for distant wives and husbands to keep up to date with each others’ daily events and happenings.
The site is currently FREE for new registrations (includes 100mb of storage space) and I feel sure that it would be a beneficial resource for some of the families which you support.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Kindest regards,
Helen Spencer

Create your own online lifeline, with multimedia events in chronological order. For the whole family, past present or future to capture and share the memories and events of their =