Letters of hope and spirit

Stuart Westley

Stuart Westley

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Seventy years on from the end of the Second World War, letters sent home by a St Annes war veteran have been brought back to life.

Stuart Westley, 90, served in the Royal Signals Corps in South Sudan, and wrote letters back home to his parents of his time in Jerusalem after Japan surrendered, which ended the Second World War.

This August marks the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan (VJ) Day, and Mr Westley’s letters offer an interesting contrast to the dropping of atomic bombs just weeks before.

When the war in Europe ended, those in his unit were offered the chance of rest and recovery in Cyprus or a trip to the Holy Land; Stuart and one other chose the Holy Land.

On that trip, after the day’s sightseeing, Stuart would write a letter home to his parents in Oldham.

His younger brother at the time was learning to type, and used Stuart’s letters to practise copy-typing.

As a result the letters were preserved, and have been printed as a booklet that Stuart gave to friends and family.

The war veteran says he sometimes reads the letters to remember the times he spent in Jerusalem. He added: “When I read the letters they bring back vivid memories, and good ones, too, I can remember exactly where I was and how I was feeling at the time.”

The letters give a detailed account of his two weeks as a tourist in 1945 visiting Biblical sites, as well as the beach in Tel Aviv and a kibbutz.

Stuart says his time in the Holy Land was a special period, and one that they did not fully appreciate at the time.

He remembers his time there with fond memories, and believes if a strong British presence had remained there then peace could have lasted.

He said: “Everybody was so friendly as everyone had stopped fighting, everyone was so peaceful and getting along, no matter what your religion was.

“We did not realise at the time what a special time it was, as fighting there would soon start again.”

After returning to England, Stuart switched his studies to Theology and became a vicar.

Stuart added: “My father was a vicar and he had never been to the Holy Land, so I wanted to make sure he got a good idea of what was happening and what it was like.”

Stuart’s daughter Anne Pappenheim had 100 copies of the booklet printed.

She said: “They are just so interesting, to see where he was, but also for myself as it shows my dad as a young man and what he was like before I was around.

“You can clearly see from the letters how he is trying to describe everything he experienced while over there to his father who had never been.”