THE  DOVER WAR MEMORIAL  PROJECT

 

war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper

 

Memorial 2


FOR RAYMOND WILLIAM BRETT, RAVFR

Memorial 1   Memorial 2

In the photograph below, taken on 4 August 1943, Raymond is in the back row, first left.

The Flight Lieutenant, writing to Raymond's parents on 28 June 1944, said, "I am enclosing a photo of the crew of which your son, Flight Sergeant Raymond William Brett, was a member. This was taken very shortly before their last trip and I feel sure you would like a copy. I hope we shall soon hear good news of him." 

On 19 October 1944, four months after Raymond's plane set off from Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire, on a bombing raid, his parents received the telegram below from the Air Ministry at 77 Oxford Street, London.

It reads: "Deeply regret to advise you that according to information received through the International Red Cross Committee, your son GT Raymond William Brett is believed to have lost his life as the result of air operations on 22/6/44 The Air Council,

     

Above, the grave where are buried together all the crew,  who perished on 22 June 1944 near Lanklaar, Belgium. The villagers of Lanklaar subscribed to the oak cross on the right, marking the grave; the picture was taken on 12 September (possibly 1947?), the day the cross was dedicated. The central picture was sent to Raymond's parents, inscribed on the back, "A souvenir of where Raymond fell. Far from their [homes] perhaps but close to our hearts"

The memorial, above, erected at Lanklaar in 1948, was organised by Mr and Mrs Steele, from Norwich, parents of Michael. A designer who had already erected memorials in Norwich Cathedral and other ecclesiastical work was chosen, and the memorial was made from Hopton Wood Stone, quarried in Derbyshire. The size of the memorial is 3 feet 6 inches by 2 feet 6 inches.

Mrs Steele, in a letter to Raymond's parents, wrote, " I have added the boys' birthdays and whether they were English, American, etc to allow their identities to stand out." Five of the young men were English, one Scottish, one American, one Australian, and one Rhodesian. Mrs Steele added, " I chose a quotation from Arthur Bryant, the historian,. It was from a very nice paper he wrote on our young men who were killed in action during this war.  "These are the salt and the light of the world", and hope that you and Mrs Brett will agree with us that that is what just what our sons were to us. ".


Letters

In the first, probably written in November 1943, Raymond mentions as part of his training being dropped some 30 miles away from his base and having to make his way back with no money. The archivist at 49 Squadron Association has kindly expanded on what may have happened during an evasion course.

"Airmen were transported at night in a covered lorry, quite some distance from base and basically dumped in the middle of nowhere. They had to get back to base by any means and within a certain time without being captured by the police and army who had been alerted to apprehend 'intruders'. I presume they were allowed the mini compasses they carried in their tunic button and the other escape accessories that all fitted into a small tin. I believe they only carried out one exercise."

 

Letter from Raymond to his parents, written at No 2 Course, Aircrew Commando School, RAF Scampton, Lincoln.

"Dear Mum and Dad,

"Well I arrived safely OK, after missing two trains, one Sunday morning and one Saturday night. I'm on a commando course now and am getting a week's leave at Christmas. Are you going away at Christmas or not? Don wants me to go to London and so does his pal. If I do stay there I'd like a civvy suit but I'll let you know about that later. Write straight away and tell me what you are doing. I'm getting paid everything they owe me on Friday so I'll send you some soon.

"It's not a bad place here, I'm sharing a room with my crew and have been sawing wood this morning for a fire.

Have not been to Lincoln yet but am thinking of going tonight.

It's pretty good this commando course, bags of football, PT, shooting, hikes, etc. Soon we are going to be dropped about 30 miles from base and have to get back ourselves with no money.

"Well I think that's all for now, shall write to Brenda later.

"Please send my letters on.

"Your Loving Son,

Ray xxxxxxx

Don, mentioned in Raymond's letter above, was Donald Robert Harwood, later to be awarded the DFM. He and Raymond were on the same Air Gunners' course at Stormy Down, Wales, but in different Squads (K and H respectively). Don Harwood is in the back row, second from left. This picture was taken the day before the one of Raymond with his squad, above.

On the back of the photograph is a message from a young lady named Dee, who lived near Stormy Down. Raymond had arranged to call for her, and probably sent her the photograph in the hope she would also find a girlfriend for Don so they could all enjoy a day by the sea together.

Don and Raymond stayed in touch after they were posted to different squadrons in April 1944. At the beginning of the month Don went to 49 Squadron at Fiskerton, and towards the end of that month Raymond went to 44 Squadron at Dunholme Lodge.

Don's pal, in the letter above, was George Woodhouse. Raymond often went with Don to visit George, whose family lived in south London. George's sister, "Girlie", remembered, "Ray had dark hair, was noticeably shorter than Don, and had a flamboyant character. He would wear the charms ladies gave him on the inside of his jacket or cap for luck".

Letter from Raymond to his parents, written at Sergeants' Mess, RAF Dunholme Lodge, Lincoln

"Dearest Mum and Dad,

"I'm quite fit, a little tired of sleeping during the daytime. Hope you are both well and happy, get rid of that tummy trouble Mum!

"How's old Brenda getting on, glad she's coming home soon, buck you up a bit, eh?

"Sorry to hear about poor old Colin, I heard from the Sonleys but nothing about Colin being ill. Pity.

"What I know of D.Day I can't write so let's forget it.

"Why don't you stay in London or Salisbury for a bit, Mum. Those B pilotless blighters don't play the game, actually it's an admission that the Luftwaffe as a Bomber Force is a washout!

"It's a funny thing, I'm blowed if I know what to write. I can't tell you what I'm doing, I can't tell you what I'm thinking, I can't tell you what I've done. I can only tell you I should get leave in a month.

"I'll close now. Write soon. You owe me the last one for one I sent before the leave so you still owe me one now.

"Yours always, Ray xxxxx

"PS I arrived safely thank you x x"

Extracts from letter from Raymond to his parents, written at the Sergeants' Mess, Royal Air Force Station, Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire

"Dear Mum and Dad,

"Well I arrived ok on time, though I could not get across to Croydon, so I'll get my clothes next time I am on leave .... I hope you are having a quiet time down there now that Brenda is home ...don't forget to write on the backs of these in the very near future ....Your loving son, Ray xxxx

"PS Please send socks I left and any civvy ones you can repair. Also scissors. R xxxx"  

Don's family lived in Croydon. Below is a certificate of posting for a registered postal parcel, addressed to 1807476 Brett, Dunholme Lodge, Lincoln. The parcel was posted on 6 June 1944 from Thornton Heath, Surrey.

 

The parcel probably contained Raymond's clothes, which were likely to have been posted back to him by one of Don's family - perhaps his mother - as both Don and Raymond would have been fully engaged on operations for D-Day.

 

 

 

Letter to Mr Brett from the Manager of the Westminster Bank Ltd, 5 King Street, Dover, dated 10th January 1945

"Dear Mr and Mrs Brett,

"Thank you for your last letter, enclosing two letters, which I return.

"As you say, there now seems little doubt that Raymond lost his life in his last flight in June last.

"Although I feel there is little I can say to help you in your grief - I would like to say that we here realise we have lost a friend - one who was most popular with us, owing, I think, to his abundant cheerfulness in any circumstances. So he must have been to his crew.

"The staff here and myself would like you to accept our deep sympathy - but in this sadness we also feel a pride in the sacrifice he has made. I trust in time you and Mrs Brett will be able to feel this too.

Yours sincerely,

E G Smith"

Notes from Raymond's small notebook

"In the event of anything unfortunate happening to myself  1807476 R W Brett, there are two small requests inside.

 

Send this home

The contents on the opposite page are my own personal possessions and in the event of anything happening to myself I should be truly grateful if they went home to my parents, their address being

W J Brett
24 Buckland Ave
Dover
Kent

watch, cufflinks, studs, 2 coathangers, 1 swimtrunks, 1 gloves, 3 ties black, 1 shirt fixed collar, 2 Van Heusen collars, 2 vests, 1 set darts, books, 1 shoes, 1 sweater, cig lighter, wallet and contents, 1 pen, 1 comb, 1 pair braces, toothbrush, 1 camera/film spool, 1 razor, 1 yellow silk scarf , 2 pairs pyjamas ... PTO

Raymond's death was a blow to Don and to "all of the gang who knew him", Girlie, George Woodhouse's sister remembered. Raymond had become very friendly with George's family, to the point that George's mother told Raymond that he really should see his own family for a change. Raymond had been to the cinema with George's mother and Girlie, and although he pretended to be a sad little boy, pleading jokingly to go home with them, he heeded the advice and took the bus home to his parents. That was the last time the Woodhouse family saw him; it was some consolation to them that Raymond's mother had seen him once more before he died.


 

.Letter to Mrs Brett from the Manager of the Westminster Bank Limited, 5 King Street, Dover, dated 14th December 1953

"Dear Mrs Brett,

"It will interest you to know that following the reconstruction of this office after war damage, we have now been able to affix a Memorial Tablet to those members of our staff who made the supreme sacrifice during the late war.

"The only name on our Tablet is that of your son who served at this Branch, and I feel you would like to know that his name is recorded.

"Any time you are passing the Bank and would like to see this Tablet, I shall be pleased for you to come in."

Letter from Buckingham Palace

The Queen and I offer you our heartfelt sympathy in your great sorrow.

We pray that your country's gratitude for a life so nobly given in its service may bring you some measure of consolation.

George RI
 

.


with grateful thanks to Rosie Bolton
and with great thanks to David Harwood for the further information about Raymond

Memorial 1   Memorial 2


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