English History

ENGLISH HISTORY TODAY: Harlow charity shop reunites WW2 diary with soldier’s family


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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Mar.07: 2023:

#AceHistoryDesk – A woman says she has a new family tree to discover after being reunited with her grandfather’s World War Two diary.

Sue Cole and Becky Day in Harlow
Sue Cole was handed the diary by St Clare Hospice marketing and communications manager Becky Day

Sue Cole, from Colchester, knew nothing about Sjt George West – not even his name.

St Clare Hospice helped track her down via social media after a volunteer found the notebook at the charity’s vintage shop in Harlow.

“It’s quite fascinating,” said Ms Cole, who has already started looking for Sjt West’s descendants in the Netherlands. 

“There’s so much of interest in it. There’s a lot about the war, about rationing, everyday life; there’s so much in it – a lot of relatives I’ve never even heard of.”

Tracey Chippett with a World War Two diary at a charity shop in Harlow
Tracey Chippett said one of the shop volunteers picked the diary off its shelves

The diary revealed that Sjt West was in the British Army’s Rifle Brigade 1903-1929 and that he kept the notebook 1939-1948.

He trained officers for the RAF at Felsted School, near Braintree, during the conflict and his RAF badge was labelled Tomps – 551769.

The hospice shared a post on its Facebook page, after the discovery at its Scarlet Vintage and Retro shop, which was picked up by genealogy groups.

“It really captured people’s imagination,” said Tracey Chippett, the shop manager.

A World War Two diary by Sgt George West
The diary includes stories and anecdotes about the weather, rationing and family

Ms Cole said her brother, who worked in Harlow, thought he may have donated it by accident – after clearing out old belongings – not knowing it was a diary.

The 68-year-old mother-of-two has been told Sjt West died in 1949 and her grandmother, Hendrika Jeths, lived with Ms Cole’s family when she grew up years later in Braintree.

Of the people who helped reunite her with the diary, she told BBC Essex: “I think they’re amazing and I can’t thank them enough.”


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