My father, Robbie Clark, who has died aged 98, was a survivor of the Long March, or Death March, at the end of the second world war.
Robbie, a gunner in the Royal Artillery, had been taken prisoner in Tobruk, Libya, in June 1942 with 30,000 allied prisoners. He spent the next three years in prisoner of war camps in German-occupied Poland, including Stalag VIII-B Lamsdorf.
In January 1945, as the Russian armies resumed their offensive and advanced into Germany, the Nazis evacuated the PoW camps to prevent the liberation of prisoners by the Russians. In one of the coldest winters of the 20th century, groups of 200-300 were forced to march west with no food, and little clothing.
Many thousands died. The lucky ones got far enough west to be liberated by the American army in April 1945. Robbie kept a secret diary of his experiences, walking under duress for nearly 1,000 miles. He lost half his body weight and survived with the willpower and determination that endured a lifetime.
Born in South Shields, he was one of three children of a first world war veteran, also Robert, who mined at Whitburn colliery, and Dorothy Young. On leaving Mortimer Road school at 14, Robbie joined his father at the coal face before becoming an apprentice joiner and winning a scholarship to attend Hebburn Technical College. He qualified as a joiner in September 1939 and was conscripted the following day.
His trade skills proved useful to his captors, who sent him out to repair buildings, roads and rail tracks damaged by allied bombing.
On his return to Britain, in May 1945, Robbie married Rita Springall, whom he had met in Carlisle five years earlier: he was stationed there, and Rita, who was from Kentish Town, north London, was on a family visit to the town. They set up home in Burnt Oak, north-west London, where Robbie’s skills were in demand in the rebuilding of the capital after the war; they celebrated their diamond wedding in 2005. Rita died aged 91 in 2009.
When Robbie needed round-the-clock help, a dedicated live-in carer looked after him at his home of 50 years. But as his savings ran out, he faced being moved by the local authority into residential care. This, he thought, would be like being a prisoner again.
After media attention in 2015, 180,000 people signed a petition to keep Robbie in his own home: and with the help of charities such as ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and Blind Veterans UK and Honour our Forces , Robbie was able to continue to live in his family home. Robbie’s story highlighted the issues of funding and health and social care before it became so apparent during this year’s general election campaign.
He is survived by his daughter, Susan, and Son Mike, and four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Update 18.15 17th Aug 2016
Robbie Clark now could lose his home due to the Brent Council sending him a bill for his Care for 24k , which is a total Disgrace , with now the threat of Enforcement. Robbie is 98 years old and used up all his savings to pay for his care a year ago, we here have managed for the last year with you kind help and other to keep his care going, but has run dry. but Brent Council want to dig the hole deeper they say Quote, “it would be cheaper to put him in a care home”
Robbie does not wish to go in to a home, he has lived in this house for years. and has all the Memories. he say put me in a home i would be dead in months. all i would like to do is reach 100 id be a happy then.
This is No way to treat anyone but even worse is this man stood up for and fought for us and this this country.
If you wish to support please do in anyway you wish but please spread the word shout it from hills. and show Him we care .
I Know this is off Topic, but DJ Tony Blackburn has been a great supporter of our Armed Forces over the years, but now needs our support after the terrible treatment by the senior management at the BBC. where he has been sacked for to fare no reason what so ever. so we would like our followers to click the Link below which will take you to the support Tony Blackburn Page on Facebook. please give it a like and have a look round.
Mr Bond is the headlines again so thought we would look back at his Navy Record
Commander Bond’s Military Service Record
Commander James Bond CMG, RNVR has been serving Queen and Country for over seventy four years.
Back in 1941 Bond joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a lieutenant. By the time the Second World War had ended he’d risen through the ranks to become a commander.
A rank he’s managed to keep throughout his chequered career, largely in part because of reporting to and working directly under M, who had been an active admiral.
Much of Commander Bond’s career, and his ability to retain an ever-youthful vigour, remains however a mystery.
Working for the Intelligence Services he’s been spotted wearing both the wavy rank-striped uniform of the Royal Navy Reserve and the straight gold cuff stripes and epaulettes of the regular Royal Navy.
Between 1994 and 2005 he was spotted on film wearing what looked to be parachute wings – possibly of the Special Boat Squadron.
Certainly since 2005 it’s been strongly suggested he did indeed serve for a time in the secretive SBS.
The drinking, smoking,womanising Bond’s exact age remains classified although he’s well into his nineties. The Commander however shows no sign of slowing down or retiring on to what by now must be a very handsome pension.
We understand that he may seen around the Albert Hall in London on the 26th Oct but that is just speculation….
When I Joined the Army in 1939, I was sent for training in Carlisle.On one particular Sunday we didn’t have any marching or drill to do and there was a park near by, so being a Sunday me and my mate went for a stroll to the park. As we got near there were two girls and we got talking to them and one of them lived in London. I hit it off with her instantly and we laughed and joked. She was up there with her Mum and Dad on holiday in the Lakes we got on really well her name was Rita.We exchanged addresses and said ‘Bye’ to each other and I thought that was that and I would not see her again.
However when the War broke out I was sent to the town of Salisbury for more training.
As it was getting close to Christmas, most of the boys were going to go home for Christmas, but as a Geordie I wanted to go up north to my parents for New Year. So I thought to myself, if I go North then I’ll have to go via Kings Cross Station. I thought I’ll write to Rita to see if she remembers me. I sent the letter to Rita and told her who I was and if she remembered me that I was going home to Newcastle Upon Tyne for the New Year and if she would like meet me I would be at Kings Cross Station on Tuesday. On my trip up to London, I was thinking about Rita a lot and I didn’t know if she would be there – but to my surprise and happiness she was there waiting for me under the clock!
So off we went for some tea and we chatted and the time flew by too fast and it was time for me to catch my train to Newcastle we arranged to meet again on my return trip via Kings Cross and our love bloomed.
I was then transferred from Salisbury to High Wycombe and Rita would come over and see me every Sunday and we spent some lovely times together in the Chilterns.
Then the Order came through that we were going overseas to fight and Rita and I spent as much time as we could together and our love just grew for each other.
We didn’t get engaged because I thought well ‘I might get killed and not come back’ and that would be so hard for Rita.
The day I sailed from Liverpool she came to London to wave me off at the station and say ‘Good Bye’. That was in 1940. and I didn’t see Rita again for 5 years. Our love must have been so strong as she waited for me all those years.
When I did get home at the end of the War and came back to London we met and did a lot of catching up. We decided to get married. I proposed to her on VE Day!
We arranged our wedding in South Shields in St Michael’s Church – I married my Rita at Church where my mum and Dad married and we were happily together for 64 years till Rita passed away in 2009.
You know love forges great bonds and our love lives on today, I miss her every day. We spent lots of happy days in this house,our home our family home, where memories of Rita are always with me.I wish to stay in our home till my end.
If you would like to support Robbie to let him stay at home and get the care he needs please Donate Here Thank you
Walking with the Wounded and Haig Housing are working with the BBC’s DIY SOS: The Big Build on an epic project to renovate an entire road in Manchester – complete with specially adapted and bespoke homes – and a support Centre right on the street Below is a little Video of Today’s Start in Manchester
To help ex servicemen and women in Manchester.if you can help the team they are still looking for more trades people urgently for the big build if you can . Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help
The last surviving pilot from the Dambusters raids has died at the age of 96. Les Munro died on Tuesday morning in hospital in Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty in his native New Zealand.
His death means there are just two survivors from the 1943 bombing raids on Germany’s Ruhr dams: George “Johnny” Johnson, from the UK, who was a bomb-aimer; and Canadian front-gunner Fred Sutherland.
In a statement, the New Zealand Bomber Command Association announced the “extremely sad news”, saying: “Our New Zealand Bomber Command Association patron, and well known Dambuster pilot, Les Munro passed away last night following a spell in hospital with heart problems. So, so sad. He was a mighty man.”
Along with Leonard Chambers, who died in 1985, John Leslie Munro was one of two New Zealand members of the Dambusters crew. He joined the Royal New Zealand air force in 1941, qualifying as a pilot the following year.
On 16 May 1943, as part of 617 squadron, Munro piloted a Lancaster bomber in Operation Chastise, later immortalised as the Dambusters raids. Although Munro’s aircraft suffered flak damage and was forced to turn back before it could carry out its attack on the Sorpe dam, the raids were successful in devastating the Möhne and Edersee dams.
The effects of the so-called bouncing bombs caused catastrophic flooding in the Ruhr valley, destroying hydroelectric power stations and factories. More than 1,600 people on the ground are thought to have been killed.
Of the 133 crew members who took part in the raids, 53 were killed. Munro was among those who were awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his part in the attack.
New Zealand prime minister John Key led the tributes on Tuesday, calling Munro “a remarkable man who led a remarkable life”.
Air vice-marshal Mike Yardley, head of the New Zealand air force, also paid his respects:
Saddened to hear of the passing of SQNLDR Les Munro CNZM, DSO, QSO, DFC, JP. The last WW2 617 SQN Dam Buster.
After the war, Munro returned to New Zealand and later became mayor of Waitomo district, on the north island.
Earlier this year, Munro announced his intention to sell his war medals, hoping to raise £50,000 for the upkeep of the Bomber Command memorial, which commemorates the 55,573 men who died in the second world war bombing campaign. Lord Ashcroft, the Tory peer who endowed London’s Imperial War Museum with the world’s largest collection of Victoria Cross medals, donated £75,000 to the memorial to allow Munro instead to donate his gallantry awards to the Museum of Transport and Technology (Motat) in Auckland.
At a ceremony at Motat in April, Munro handed over his gallantry medals, flight logbooks and other wartime memorabilia. “I am comforted by the thought of my medals being situated in close proximity to the Lancaster at Motat as I flew all but one of my operations in these planes,” he said. “I appreciate very much indeed that they will have some relationship.”
Following news of Munro’s death, Motat signalled its sadness, calling him “a true gentleman and hero”.