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Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 17:36 UK
Searching for Suffolk soldiers
John Parsons
John Parsons is thought to have been shot by aeroplane fire

An amateur historian is searching for comrades of his grandfather who were based in Suffolk during World War Two.

Members of the Royal Artillery were billeted in Ipswich, Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds.

John Parsons served in France and north Africa before being wounded in 1943 and sitting out the rest of the war.

His grandson Andy Parsons has built a website about the 58th Medium Regiment of Royal Artillery and he wants to fill it with more information.

"My grandfather said nothing of this to my father, and they wouldn't talk about the war," said Andy.

"A whole generation missed people talking about it. My father didn't really know what unit his father was attached to or anything.

"I recently spoke to a person who had talked to the late Harry Patch [the last surviving British First World War veteran], and he said he'd only started talking about it in 2000.

"He felt that people would either think he was bragging or that they wouldn't be interested in it."

Andy Parsons' War Gunner website is dedicated to his grandfather who served as a cook as well as a gunner.

His recipes for feeding hundreds of troops at once were written out in longhand.

The rest of the website is based largely on diaries, but it was down to a chance discovery.

Andy Parsons
Andy Parsons works on his website in his spare time at home in Yorkshire

"One day, my mother opened a drawer and out fell 250 photographs.

"Having published my findings on the internet, various schools and re-enactment groups that try some of the recipes have been in contact from across the world for social history."

From Dunkirk to north Africa

The 58th was an artillery unit mostly made up of Suffolk men although John Parsons lived in Oxfordshire and seems to have been recruited there.

Their role was to provide support to infantry, although at the start of the 1939-45 conflict their equipment was pretty dated.

"The guns they took across to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force [before France fell to the Nazis in 1940] were still on iron tyres.

"So when they were chased back across [the English Channel at Dunkirk], they didn't particularly have to put a lot of effort into destroying their guns.

"They self-destroyed when they towed them behind at speed."

They were based at various times in Woodbridge Road and Great Gipping Street in Ipswich, Gainsborough Street in Sudbury and at billets in Bury St Edmunds.

The 58th went across to north Africa and then went up through Italy attached to the 1st Army.

It was the north African campaign where John Parsons was wounded, so for him the war was over in 1943.

Andy is aware that time is running out:

"Every time I find someone whose father or grandfather is connected, they're getting on a bit.

"For myself, seeing these pictures of my grandfather at roughly the same age as me is almost like looking in a mirror.

"We're quite similar in outlook to life and attitude - country boys who've been thrown into this life.

"Having spoken to people who were connected to that extraordinary life - it's an amazing thing that they did and I don't think it should be forgotten.

Royal Artillery, WWII
The north African campaign pushed the Axis back across Libya and Egypt

"I'm very proud of my grandfather and it's something that I can pass on to my grandchildren."

"If there's anyone still alive that knew of my grandfather's regiment that could provide information or diaries that would be really interesting and then I can add to the website."

You can email Andy Parsons with any information you have about the Royal Artillery in Suffolk.

You can also send us your memories of the Royal Artillery in Suffolk and we can add them to this page:

Email BBC Suffolk online




SEE ALSO
Historic Ganges mast needs funds
29 Sep 09 |  History
The Suffolk Regiment at Arras
16 Sep 09 |  History
Suffolk Regiment's role in WWII
15 Sep 09 |  History
Obituary: Harry Patch
25 Jul 09 |  UK

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