Where did it all begin?

Graham Lawson

Back in October 1999, a friend and i decided to tour the battlefields of France, something that we both had planned to do for some time. One day we arrived in the small town of St Mere Eglise. We visitedthe Airborne Museum and whilst looking around i saw a frame with a dollar bill divided into two portions.Whilst reading the story of this bill it became apparent that a third piece of the dollar bill was missing. The Bill was divided between three friends of H Company, Ralph Busson, Bill Farmer and Dan Furlong at the Trip to Jerusalem Pub in Nottingham. The missing part of the bill was Bill Farmers piece, he was killed on D-Day. It was only when Ralph Busson passed away in 1997 that the dollar bill and its story came to light. my friend and myself were looking at this exhibit when i noticed a tall guy standing next to us looking at the same exhibit. He asked if we came from nottingham in his American accent. I replied "yes" he then asked "do you know wollaton park, is it still there". from that point on we had a long talk with him over a coffe and he told us that he was stationed at wollaton park from March to September 1944 with the 508 pir who were attached to the 82nd Airborne division. His name was Harry Hudec, he was the tallest guy in the 508. All these events struck a cord with me and on my return i started to look for more information on the 508 in Nottingham which threw up more questions than answers. I made contact with the 508 Association and after exchangingh many letters and emails i was invited to their 2005 reunion which was being held in Jacksonville Florida. I was met at Jacksonville Airport by the 508 associations chairman Dick O`Donnell three days before the reunion started. During that time with Dick he arranged for me to visit Fort Blanding whwere i was treated to a personal tour by Colonel Hatcher. The day of the reunion came around and veterans and their familiesstarted to arrive, they had heard that someone from Nottingham was attending and it was said that the attendance increased because of this fact. The veterans were remarkable, mentally very sharp and took a keen interest in my life story, when i asked a question they were easy to approach and never once turned me down. As an example one evening Walter Barrett his wife Gloria, Ziggy Boroughs and the 508 treasurer Ellen Peters sat in the hotel lounge talking. we talked all night and into the early hours of the morning about Nottingham, Europe and ww2. On another occasion i had the pleasure of meeting Keneth (Rock) Merrit. Keneth got his nickname Rock from his fellow colleagues in Normandy after landing in a cement factory. He was covered in cement dust and one guy said ....."hey, you`ll soon turn out to be a rock. Rock is the longest serving soldier in the Army and is very highly respected within military circles. I met Veteran James T Wynne (Jim) at this Reunion and a year later he visited Nottingham on his way over to France for the D-Day celebrations, and i had my first experience of showing a veteran around Nottingham before travelling to Normandy with him. Once in Normandy all the veterans and their families were there that i met previously at the Reunion. we have all remained firm friends ever since an i made many more friends over the years since. Sadly the veterans are being thinned down by father time and not many travel to Nottingham now. During the time that i have been involved with th 508 i have along with my best friend Glyn shipstone managed to put the 508 back at Wollaton Park and Nottingham. We now have a lasting memorial within the grounds of wollaton Park which took a long time to get erected with a lot of hard negotiation. I was made a honorary member of the 508 in 2007. This is something that i was Honoured, proud and very privileged to receive such a high honour. Whenever i visualise the 508 at wollaton park the years melt by with my knowledge of events and i say to myself ..."my father was 6 years old and my mother was 4 when these guys were here putting their lasting mark on Nottingham. Today when i tak to the veterans the never fail to mention the good people of Nottingham. That sums up my feelings for the 508th. I am Lucky to have rubbed shoulders with these men and very luck for the 508 to let me into their ranks. History as recorded them as the greatest generation. The 508 say that they were the greatest of the greatest generation. Graham Lawson .

Glyn Shipstone

How did i become involved with the 508 and get to meet and make friends with these veterans and their families, well its a long story. Back in 1995 i started to do my family tree (we all need to know our roots because we are all the sum total of our ancestors), while doing the family tree i got heavily involved with my grandads ww2 exploits and did my first full research task on him. The culmination of this was getting his complete regiments war diary and helping another person who was doing the same regiment research to compile a book. That was my first experience of ww2 research and to see the pictures and the story of my Grandad in a book made me feel proud of what i had acheived for him. Then i met Graham in 1999 and we became firm friends imediately because of our shared intrest in the history of ww2. The spark of intrest into the 508 for Graham started on a trip to Normandy in 2000 during a World War II battleground tour. He saw a split dollar bill that had been ripped into three by paratroopers at the Admiral Rodney Pub near Nottingham. Graham and I both come from the area, and the 508th trained here at Wollaton Park before the Normandy jump. The idea was that when the three paratroopers came back from France, they would join the dollar bill back together again. Well, two of them came back, and one of them sadly did not return. Graham wanted to know more. At this time i was just finishing of my grandads research and the story of the dollar bill and all the other stories that he told me started to get me intrested in what the history of the 508 at Wollaton Park. So i began reading. I started with the mainstream books that you can buy easily enough and of course borrowed a few from Grahams extensive Library. When you read a book they always throw up more question than answers (well they do for me anyhow). So i then wanted to go deeper, the only way to do this is to try and find the debriefing accounts which are easily available. These debriefing accounts fill in the gaps from the books that you read and you can really transport yourself back in time to the actual event you are reading about. Graham at this time was meeting veterans over here in the UK, France and during his Travels to the 508 reunions in America, The stories that he told on his return and the veterans that he was meeting is what led to the both of us to start re-enactment group called Jump 44 Living History Group. We wanted to be able to tell the general public all about the 508 and their short time here in the UK and we also wanted to work together on projects for when the veterans would come over to the Uk. Over the years we have shown around many veterans and their families that come over and always try to show them everything that they desire while here. It is something that Graham and myself take very seriously. No one can ever over state the sacrifice that the veterans and also their families made. The veterans sacrificed their youth for our freedom and the families sacrifrced seeing their loved ones grow into young men. To put it simply "we have the freedom to dream wonderful things while they live with the nightmares". One thing sticks out in my mind of what i do and have a changing effect on my life. My research into Pvt John A Daum has led me to Mr Thomas Stumpner and we have become firm friends over the years and i love exchanging messages and letters with Thomas. Thomas is the Nephew of John Daum and i have tried my hardest to find all the information i can on his Uncle for him. This research into John as with all the research into veterans when helping families out this way never ends. I am always going over things and looking for new evidence. It is something that is life changing and something that i feel says thank you from me to all those involved. Graham and myself will never stop doing what we do as researchers and tour chaparones to the veterans and their families. How could we, we have to share our knowledge and tell these stories to new generations so that those that served are never forgotten. Glyn Shipstone

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