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Determined love wins through…

14 February 2011

A couple in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, who are about to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary recently made a commemorative trip back to Tunisia. WWII veterans Charles and Margaret Ward, now 92 and 86 respectively, first met in North Africa when Charles was serving with the London Irish Rifles and Margaret was with the Secret Operations Executive (SOE), also known as Churchill’s Secret Army.

Charles tells his story: “I was called up just before the war when I was 20 years old and when the war started I was posted to serve with the London Irish Rifles. I completed my initial training in Wimbledon before training at different bases around the country and went out to North Africa in 1942.  I served throughout the whole North Africa campaign and through until the end of the war.

“I had wanted to go back to Tunisia for a long time since I had been able to find out where three of the men I served with were buried. It should have been the four of us really. Our platoon was mounting a dawn attack and travelling over open ground, I said to our men ‘I think we might be in trouble here’ as by then we were out in bright daylight.

“Our Platoon Commander got shrapnel in his back and then from nowhere we heard ‘run’ so I shouted at my men to run and as we turned around a corner a shell was dropped right on the spot where I had just moved from. I turned back to look and the three of them had been hit.  I stayed with them until the stretcher bearers arrived and took them away.  We were able to visit their graves in the Tabarka and Medjez-El-Bab War Cemeteries in Tunisia.”  

Margaret Ward was officially a First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) but as she explains, that was a cover for something far more covert. Margaret explains:

 “Although we told people that we were part of the FANY, we were actually part of the Secret Operation Executive that placed agents behind enemy lines. There was a group of us stationed in North Africa but it was all very hush-hush.  Charles was sent to our camp and was surprised when he got there to find all these English girls walking about! I was a wireless operator and as Charles was working on transmissions our paths crossed.”  

Unfortunately Charles received a posting to leave North Africa although it would not be long before they met up again. Charles was posted to Bari in southern Italy and a month later Margaret was posted to Italy as well, although she was in Siena, quite a considerable distance away.  

As she explains though, that didn’t stop her from finding Charles: “When I had some leave I hitch-hiked down through Italy. Looking back on it, a 21 year old English girl travelling on her own, anything could have happened to me, but when you are that age you don’t have any fear.

“I got to Naples without much trouble and then had to find a ride to go over the mountains to get to Bari.  I went to a filling station to try and get a ride and was told to only get a lift with an English or American truck – not with the Italians.  But I was also told that I must catch a lift before 10.00am or otherwise I would not get across the mountains before nightfall.  Well, no English or American trucks passed through and it was getting close to 10 o’clock, so I just thought, blow it, I’m going with the Italians.  

“So there I was travelling through the mountains with two Italians when a USA motorbike came passed and pulled us over.  When I stepped down out of the truck they couldn’t believe what I was doing there.  He informed me that he had pulled us over because the truck was so badly loaded with goods that it could have fallen down the mountain at any minute.  

“Luckily an American Jeep came past and the guy on the motorbike asked where they were going and they said right to the heel of Italy and I rode with them the rest of the way.”  

Both were very pleased with the help that the Heroes Return 2 Link to another website Link opens in a new browser window grants provided them with. Charles said: “We are very grateful and the trip for us was very worthwhile. We were very glad to have been able to go back together.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 15 February 2011 12:30 am

    Book-marked, I really like your site! 🙂

  2. 15 February 2011 9:04 pm

    Where exactly is the facebook like button ?

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