Sergeant John Taylor, Mrs France's grandad.
My grandad, John Taylor, was born in Huntly, Aberdeenshire on March 21st 1916. He moved south to Leamington Spa in Warwickshire before the war began. Grandad met and married my grandma, Nellie Woodward, and they made their home in Leamington Spa. He used to cycle from Leamington Spa to Coventry every day to work in an aircraft factory. He remembers seeing Coventry on fire after the Blitz in November 1940. The damage to the city was devastating- over 4000 homes were destroyed in one night.
He was called up in 1941 and was sent to the Far East. My grandma gave birth to my uncle in April 1941 and Grandad didn’t see his son, also John, from the age of 6 months until he returned home in 1946.
He served in Burma (now Myanmar) fighting the Japanese. He was in charge of a working party repairing a railway that had been blown up when they were ambushed by the Japanese. Grandad managed to hold off the attack and successfully led his men safely back to the barracks with no injuries. He was mentioned in despatches for his bravery and resourcefulness.
At the end of the hostilities in August 1945, he was seconded to the Indian Army in Rangoon where he trained Indian troops ready for India's independence in 1947. He particularly respected the Gurkhas and described them as exceptionally brave men, despite their small stature.
Grandad rarely spoke about his war experiences because he felt they were best forgotten.
Sergeant John Stuart Taylor, 10689781
Wilfrid and Helen (Ella) Grant, Mrs France's grandparents
We have very little information about my grandparents' wartime experiences because, like many people who lived through it, they didn’t like to talk about it.
My grandfather, Wilfrid John Grant, was born on 28th June 1919 in Rugby, Warwickshire and my grandma, Ella Annie Kay, was born on 28th May 1920 in Prestwich, Greater Manchester- she would have been celebrating her 100th birthday this month! My grandad, who I called Poppom(!), worked for the Post Office and, since his job was safe, he volunteered to support the war effort in 1940. Nanna also volunteered in 1940 and they met at Chester Racecourse where a training event was being conducted. Chester was a place close to their hearts for the rest of their lives- they even named their house 'Carthleon', an old-English name for Chester.
Both Nanna and Poppom then joined the Royal Corps of Signals (RCOS). They were married in Prestwich on 22nd December 1942 and the RCOS was recorded on their marriage certificate. Nanna was posted to Leamington Spa where she remained for most of the war. She was a Corporal and later a Sergeant. At some point during the war, she transferred to the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) where she worked in transport and communications.
Poppom remained in the Signals and served nearly all of his time in Great Britain. After D-Day in June 1944, he was part of a team sent over to Normandy in France to repair the shattered communications systems. Both Nanna and Poppom were demobbed in late 1945. In September 1946, my dad, Michael John Grant, was born in Rugby.