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Old soldiers share memories of service and sacrifice
As reported by mark taylor in the Oxford Mail today June 12th 2013
SIX weeks ago they were strangers left with their memories.
Now they are friends with real ties.
A series of military reminiscence sessions ended with a party in Didcot yesterday as former servicemen and women swapped tales of life in uniform.
The Age UK sessions have been credited with helping old soldiers come to terms with their experiences decades later.
Old newspapers, photographs, uniforms and other props are used to stir memories.
Even those punished by war to the point of recluse came out of their shells.
Rymans Court sheltered housing in Britwell Road, Didcot, was the venue for the final military reminiscence event of a six-week pilot project.
It was a raucous day as the group of about 30 men and women chatted like old friends over tea and cake.
Royal Engineer Ronald Frampton, of Rymans Court, regaled wartime stories of his brother Laurie, who also served as a Sapper in the Corps of Royal Engineers.
Mr Frampton was in the temporary establishment of engineer services, having joined in Devizes, and served in Africa where he helped build hospitals and radar towers.
The 92-year-old said: “We were on leave here in 1942, he was a devil of a chap.
“It’s a great day to come out and meet everyone here. You get to meet so many people, and talk about old times too.
“We’re all really grateful for everyone who has helped put this on, I’ve made a lot of new friends.
“It’s not something you ever think about when you’re fighting in war, what will happen afterwards.”
Rymans Court resident Betty Smith was 15 when the Second World War broke out.
She enjoyed tea with Freda Douglas, of Didcot, and told how she was called up to serve as a ship’s electrician in Southampton.
The 88-year-old said: “We trained for four weeks and then they let us loose on the ships; it was a crazy time but we saw so much. Coming here has given me a chance to meet people and find out more about what other people went through.
“Hearing other tales is always a lovely thing because you know you all went through something similar.”
Community psychiatric nurse officer Graham Bandy, of D Detachment 202 M Field Hospital in Abingdon is the man behind the Living Military History events.
He said: “It is a joy to see the change in some of the old soldiers as they open up.
“We’ve had one man who at first wouldn’t speak at all, now he is completely out of his shell, laughing, joking with people.”
He helped co-ordinate the day with Ruth Swift and Karen Thomas from Age UK Oxfordshire who bid for funding from the Civilian Military Partnership Forum to run the events.
For more information on our Reminiscence Therapy sessions and how we can help with projects in your area please contact us.