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Widow on a quest to return war memorabilia

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Widow on a quest to return war memorabilia

Postby U-5075 » Sat Oct 03, 2009 9:30 am

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales ... 24831793/#

Widow on a quest to return war memorabilia
Oct 2 2009 by Clare Hutchinson, South Wales Echo

Widow on a quest to return war memorabilia
A CANCER patient with months to live is on a quest to find the original owner of a postcard rescued by her husband from a sinking Nazi U-Boat.

Joan Sandiford-Thompson, 86, found the card in a book which her late husband, Keith, had kept as a memento of his time serving as a merchant navy seaman during World War II. He had snatched the book from the control room of a Nazi U-Boat minutes before it sank to the bottom of the North Sea.

The postcard, which pictures a Nazi U-Boat, was sent in 1941 from a soldier based in Germany to his father on a submarine base in what is now Poland. He speaks of being bothered by the drone of “Tommy” aircraft at night but insists he is well, asking about his father’s health.

For more than 60 years it had gathered dust on a shelf in the couple’s home in Rumney, Cardiff, until Joan decided to send it home after being told she had just months to live.

The retired catering manager was diagnosed with cancer four years ago and has three carers to look after her.

One carer, Ann Morris, has so far traced it through a pen friend to a former Nazi base in the northern German town of Eckernforde, near the border with Denmark. But Joan needs help with the next step: tracing the sender Sohn Heinz, or his family, to return the long-lost card and book.

She said: “I want more than anything to get this book back. It is not my property. I have kept it all these years but I want it to go back now.”

Her husband, Keith, died aged 74 in 1997 after a fall from a ladder that broke his neck.

He had joined the merchant navy in 1940 shortly after the outbreak of World War II in September 1939.

Although not able to remember the ship on which her husband served or the year he found the book, Joan recalled in detail the story behind the precious postcard.

She said: “Sometime during the war, they were in the sea off Iceland dropping depth charges. German submarines were there in packs, waiting to attack merchant ships.

“Suddenly there was a big explosion, they knew they had scored a hit and up came a U-Boat. It was barely afloat and there were survivors in the water, but not many.”

While the British sailors scrambled lifeboats to rescue the survivors, Keith and the ship’s first mate boarded the sinking U-Boat to retrieve books from the control room which might contain intelligence on the German war effort.

“Suddenly the deck tilted and they knew she was going down,” said Joan.

“How they managed to climb the ladder, jump from the deck into the boat, with the sack, he never knew.

“The sub was practically vertical and going down fast, when she did it caused a big wave that lifted the boat, the sack fell over, and a book dropped into the sea. Keith reached for it and gave it to the mate but he threw it away.”

It was only later, on a walk of the deck, that Keith saw the book still in the lifeboat.

Joan said: “It had opened, dried out, and the leaves were blowing back and forth. He kept it as a memento of the occasion – after all, he had rescued it from the sea only to see it thrown away.”
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