The 1st Derbyshire Yeomanry, 28th February – 21st April 1941

My mum and her two sisters inherited their mother’s autograph album which she had been given for Christmas in 1905. Thirty-six years later, during the 2nd World War, their little village of Harston was a staging post for soldiers before they were sent abroad. Some of those young men would have gone and never returned, and knowing that their future was so very uncertain, grandma welcomed the servicemen into her home. Her husband, my grandfather who had served in the first war, joined up again, and her son, my uncle was in the RAF.

The three sisters kept a diary of these years, with stories of the different ‘boys’ they met. It was all so innocent, and the family who were by no means well-off, shared their rations to give the young men a little home away from home.  In February of 1941, The 1st Derbyshire Yeomanry, were stationed nearby, and some of the men signed the girls’ autograph book.

I’ve tried to find out a little more about them… if any of them are still alive they will have passed their century.

  • G.E. Mathers L.A.D. (Light Aid Detachment) – George, named after his dad,  was born in 1916 in West Ham; he probably had two younger brothers, Frederick and Ronald and a sister, Grace. After the war in 1948 he married Grace Linscott – so a wife and a sister both with the same lovely first name
  • John (Jack) Manning – with a fairly common name, I can’t find out anything about Jack
  • Fred? Harvey? – I can’t really read what he wrote
  • William (Billy) Y. Shore/Shone – too many Billies and I know nothing more about him
  • Thomas (Tom) Grace – rather a lot of Toms, and I have no way of finding him
  • Christopher Cooper L.A.D. (Light Aid Detachment) – another friend of my mum and her sisters who must remain unknown
  • Paul Maynard  – as with the others above, I can’t trace him
  • Paul Henry (Harry) Elks – Harry was born in January 1916, the youngest son of William and Bertha née Jones, brother of Reginald and Winifred; he married Frances Davies in 1939 and lived a long life, dying in Derby at the age of eighty-six
  • H. Rose – a mystery
  • F? Sails? – I can barely make out his signature
  • the most anonymous but intriguing young man, with a wonderful but indecipherable signature, possibly Eric/Erich Phinian? leaves a little message – ‘a fairly lousy accordion player

I must read the diary my mum and her sisters left and see if I can find out any more about these young soldiers.

I’m sharing the page from the autograph book… if anyone can interpret the mysterious accordion player’s signature I’ll be very interested!

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