If Elizabeth Turner had not started a school project about World War II, her great grandpa’s heroism during the said war would have still stayed secret until now.
Turned out he was given a Military Medal for gallantry during WWII for his heroic efforts during the war; his family had known he had received a special medal once but nothing else more about it.
James Angel enlisted to fight for WWII in 1940 at the age of 33. The war brought him for action in France, Holland and Belgium.
He was Bren gunner aboard a reconnaissance car march 25, 1945 when a battle ensued at a bridge on the Issel river in Wesel, Germany and his actions during the skirmish had ensured the successful crossing of British soldiers across that said bridge.
Military Medal recommendation, signed by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, summed up his heroic deed:
“Sapper Angel moved out in his recce car in full view of the enemy and by engaging them with his Bren gun forced them to go to ground. Throughout the action he displayed complete disregard for his own safety.”
Unfortunately, James Angel had to sell that certain military decoration to get food on the table for his seven children. Added to that, he never spoke about his war exploits to his kids so his story died with him…so it seemed.
9-year-old Elizabeth Turner was doing a school project about WWII in her primary school in Wareham, Dorset when she came upon her great grandpa’s story. With the help of her grandmother who was also the daughter of the once WWII hero, Sheila Scott, and her husband, they were able to dig up Sapper Angel’s citation for the award through the internet – it was published in the London Gazette in 1945.
In an interview, 61-year-old Mrs. Scott revealed her father was a quiet man and never did once talk about the war to them, his kids, and that she was still in shock to learn he was a WWII hero.
“My father was a very quiet man who provided for his family and never spoke about the war.
“The family knew he once had a special medal but didn’t know anything else about it.
“I think he sold it to help to feed us when we were all small. I was one of seven brothers and sisters and life was pretty hard.
“I was shocked when I found out what he did and then to find the medal still in existence was something else.
“My father could have had the initials MM after his name all his life but he never mentioned it. I felt that I owed it to my father to buy it back.
“I have all his other medals and it is very special and quite emotional to have them all complete again,” she stated.
Amazingly, a militaria dealer had offered up his MM for sale for £1,900 the same time they learned about his story so they did not pass up the chance to have the said military decoration and bought it.
Elizabeth then took a photo of the medal, a copy of her great grandpa’s medal citation and a picture of him to school to show to her teachers and other pupils.
“It has been important for children to see things like Montgomery’s signature and find out who he was,” Angela, Elizabeth’s mother, said.
Thanks to her curiosity and her school project, the family had learned an important poignant secret – one which would have remained unspoken in the grave.