Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Monday, 27 September 2010 12:32 UK
WW2 airman's watch returned to Suffolk family
A History of the World
By Jon Wright
BBC Suffolk

Flight Sergeant Victor Henry Andrews' watch
"It sits beside my bed, laying on the chest of drawers," said Douglas Andrews

A World War II airman's wrist watch, found in a field in Yorkshire and returned to Suffolk, has been selected for the BBC's A History of The World.

The story of how the watch was discovered and reunited 60 years later has made the top 10 list of objects submitted by the public.

Douglas Andrews, 83, now keeps the watch by his bed as a reminder of his brother Victor, who died aged 19.

"I say good morning and goodnight to him," said Douglas.

Flight Sergeant Victor Henry Andrews came from Alderton in Suffolk and was a gunner on a Halifax Mk III bomber during the war.

In March 1945 his plane crashed just before making it back to the airfield at RAF Pollington near Snaith in Yorkshire after a bombing raid over Germany.

All eight crew on board were killed.

A tale of farming, eBay and research

Flight Sergeant Victor Henry Andrews
Flight Sergeant Victor Henry Andrews was 19 when he died

Historian Peter Gulliver's father also flew with 51 Squadron and was shot down a year earlier than Victor. His research started the chain of events that led to the emotional reunion.

"The story started when I was on eBay and I saw a menu card which was from a 41 air-school in Rhodesia, which was for bomb aimers.

"There were 12 names on the card, I decided to see what I could find out about them.

"Four didn't survive the war, but one was George Samuel Munford. I traced who his crew were and that led me to Douglas Andrews in Ipswich.

"I went to the crash site, which was the old airfield at Snaith, in East Yorkshire.

"While I was there I was told that a watch had been found not long after the crash.

"A Mr and Mrs Hargraves had it, who lived in the village, and it was her father who had found it.

"The watch had been dragged up while he'd been harrowing in the field.

"I got in touch with Douglas and we had a long, long talk, and I discovered it could only be one person's watch because his mum was a prolific writer, and she had written to the squadron to ask where her son's watch was.

Peter Gulliver presenting the watch to Douglas Andrews in 2006
An emotional scene as Peter presents Douglas with his brother's watch.

"I was very emotional when I got there, eight men lost their lives there and although I've done a number of research projects, every time you go it is always emotional.

In 2006 Peter organised an official presentation ceremony at one of the squadron's reunions.

A local jeweller gave the watch a clean, but found it was still in working order.

"I was just really pleased with the outcome, it was fantastic that we could return it to the family.

"Everyone was very emotional in the room, Douglas picked the watch up and kissed it.

"He'd lost his brother, and I could tell when I saw him they were very, very close.

"I'm just so glad it's brought some happiness back to the family who'd lost someone."

Back in the family

"It was a very emotional day for all us," said Anne Marie Lennard, Douglas's daughter.

Colin and his sister Anne Marie with their father Douglas Andrews
Colin uploaded the watch onto the A History of the World website

"We've always been brought up with stories about the war and uncle Victor.

"It did happen and you have to have a lot of respect for all those people who went through it all for us."

Her brother, Colin Andrews, said even though he was born after Victor's death, having the watch back in the family is a way of connecting with him.

"You can imagine what his life was like. I didn't know him but it makes you feel as though you did.

"Needless to say, it now ranks as one of our family's most treasured possessions."



Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific