A chance find in a Retro reader’s late dad’s possessions turned out to be a fascinating and honest account of World War Two as seen by one soldier.
Peter Orton, who lives in Arbourthorne, found the hardback notebook when he was looking through items found in his father Frank’s home when he died 14 years ago.
Peter said: “Everything got put into boxes and I found that. I don’t know the person who it belongs to and the name on the front is definitely not my dad’s.
“It’s a 1940 diary of a man in the war.”
Peter’s dad Frank, who during the war lived on the Manor Estate before later moving to Parson Cross and Arbourthorne, served in the same company as the diary owner, Cpl E Wells of C Company, the York and Lancaster Regiment (the name L A Wells is also mentioned).
Both served in Norway, Iceland, South Africa and Burma, said Peter.
He said: “My dad never talked about Burma but he did tell me that they were in the trenches and somebody shouted ‘Oi!’.
“My dad said, ‘don’t get up’ but the man stood up and someone shot his head off.”
As his dad realised, the man shouting was an enemy sniper.
Peter would very much like to give the diary back to the family of the owner but he’s keen that they should treasure it.
Get in touch with him via Retro.
The diary contains lots of photographs, just a few of which can be seen here.
Other souvenirs such as newspaper clippings, foreign bank notes and a cartoon 1940 Christmas card featuring a polar bear have all been carefully pasted on to its pages.
Some of the entries were attributed to Sgt G H Linley. A newspaper clipping that must have dated from many years after the war, as it mentions he was a great-grandfather, recorded his death on December 9 and funeral at Hutcliffe Wood crematorium.
The entries for April and May give a flavour of the diary.
Onr April 6 he states: “Left Thirsk for God knows where, went up to Edinburgh then over to Glasgow, St George’s dock by 5.30pm.
“We then embarked on Chrobry, a Polish ship that escaped from Poland when Germany took over.”
On board they were issued their arctic kit, including snow glasses and a sheepskin coat and cap, then the ship departed in convoy for Scapa Flow. Sgt Linley talked about seeing a German battleship upside-down there.
Out past Scapa Flow they hit heavy seas and their ship was shaken by depth charges.
On April 14 the convoy was joined by HMS Sheffield, Rodney and Renown before they reached the Arctic Circle.
Two days later, they transferred to another ship, the Matabele, and saw their first action when German war plans flew over “and it was just like firework day, about five destroyers letting go at once, but Jerry was a little too high for them”. One of the ships took a direct hit.
In Norway, they spent weeks being moved from place to place, sometimes only 20 miles away from German troops. At times they came under heavy bombardment from German planes.
Towards the end of the month they were in the battalion’s forward platoon, waiting for the arrivals of the KOYLIs and Lincolns and then were evacuated from Norway.
Another ship, the HMS Afridi, was sunk and Sgt Linley, who was aboard the Duchess of Athol, mentioned a memorial service in the ship’s ballroom for the 127 men who had been killed.
He also learned that half of the 900 men of the First Battalion had been killed in a day and only 320 had survived.