Shropshire soldier’s treasured memoirs published by grandchildren
Even in a war zone, Shropshire lad Gordon Heynes took time to appreciate the wildlife around him.
This peacetime bank worker observed the fascinating birds, and from time to time had less agreeable encounters with snakes, a tiger – or what he assumed was a tiger – padding around his hut at night and, on one occasion, he came face-to-face with a wolf.
There was also a war to fight and Gordon, who had been brought up in Craven Arms, was pitched into battle against the Japanese in Burma, and was to be injured by a bomb.
Years later he wrote about his experiences in a book for family and friends, and that book has now been republished for a new generation of readers by two of his grandchildren.
"My brother Gary and I felt that our grandfather's words were deserving of a wider audience, and so we prepared a book from his original manuscript," said Neal Bircher, who lives in Ickenham, Greater London.
Their grandfather never gave his book a title, so they chose one taken from a quote in the text – "I Felt No Sorrow, This Was War."
Born in 1904, Gordon went to Ludlow Grammar School and as a young man had enjoyed riding his motorcycle through the Shropshire countryside and playing for Craven Arms' cricket team. He played badminton, and was good at football, being given trials for Aston Villa.
Neal said: "He moved to Gloucester from Craven Arms in the 1920s through his work with Lloyds Bank – he had worked at the Ludlow branch – and was married in 1935.
"He volunteered in 1941, at the age of 37, and became a tank gunner, leaving home and family for four years to fight in Burma, where he was badly injured but recovered to return to his duties.
"When he retired from the bank in 1963 his colleagues gave him a typewriter that he subsequently used to write up the amazing story of his war experiences in a one-off book for his friends and family to read.
"His daughter Anthea – my mother – was born in December 1939, at the start of the war, and to mark her 80th birthday my brother and I decided to publish her father’s book."
Gordon was injured by a bomb dropped by a Japanese aircraft which killed a number of soldiers around him, but recovered to be able to rejoin his squadron.
He died in 1982, on Neal's 18th birthday, and Neal has happy memories of a kindly old man who enjoyed ornithology and painting.
The book is available on Amazon.