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Frome shares VJ Day memories

 L-R Edith Knight, Jane Norris (RBL), Gwen Dunford, Jo Dismore, Arlene Cooper, Ron Stone and Midge Skene

L-R Edith Knight, Jane Norris (RBL), Gwen Dunford, Jo Dismore, Arlene Cooper, Ron Stone and Midge Skene

LOCAL people shared their memories of World War II recently in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in Japan and the end of the war.

Jane Norris, chair of the Frome branch of the Royal British Legion, has been meeting with and recording the stories of those who remember the Second World War. Her project began with an appeal in Frome Times for people to come forward in light of the 70th anniversary of Victory in Japan (VJ Day) – the end of World War II -on 15th August.

Jane said, “I was pleased with the response  to the project. As the 70th anniversary of VJ Day approached, a number of people, ranging in age from 83 to 95, wanted to talk to me.

“The four main respondents represent a cross-section who served in the army in Burma, the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) in the Far East and in the Royal Navy off the coast of America on VJ Day. An evacuee to Devon, now 83 years old, has even written a book based on his memories.

“I should be delighted if Frome could continue to assist in this oral history project, and I invite any support.”

The four main respondents were Frome residents Ron Stone, Midge Skene, Wally Harbert, and John Dismore.

Ron Stone, now 95, was in the 44th Royal Marines Commando and trained in Scotland and Sierra Leone, who survived his ship being torpedoed in the Mediterranean, and fought in Burma.

He fought in the Battle of Hill 170, in January 1945, before falling ill and he heard of the Japanese surrender from a hospital bed in India. Ron now continues to work as a lay preacher in Frome.

Margaret ‘Midge’ Skene  worked with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) doing clerical work at RAF High Wycombe and Wymeswold Officer Training Unit. In 1944 she was  posted to Bombay, India, and later Singapore. She recently settled in Frome to be near her children.

Wally Harbert, 85, was just eight years old at the start of the war, and has written a book about his experience of being evacuated from London to Devon.

He recalled being in Trafalgar Square on VE Day and seeing Winston Churchill’s address at the Ministry of Health, then celebrating VJ Day with a farming family back in Devon.

Wally’s memories are recorded in one of several books he has written, including “Child of the War: An evacuee in Devon”.

John ‘Jo’ Dismore, joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a teenager in 1941. He served as a lieutenant in an anti-submarine patrol off the West Indies.

He then sailed back to the USA in time for VJ Day, and continued to work in the merchant navy until 1952. He then married and qualified as a Fellow in the Chartered Institute of Secretaries, and has since lived in Clifton, Great Elm, and now Frome.

Gwen Dunford, Edith Knight and Michael Riggs were also involved with the Royal British Legion (RBL) project.

The project continues and Jane Norris, chairman of the Frome branch RBL, is committed to recording memories for the families that still live on. She would welcome any contact from anyone with memories of the war.

Contact Jane on 07776 208531 or 01373 462162 or email: