World War Two documentary soldier worked for the Guardian

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A soldier whose message home forms part of a new World War Two history project worked for many years at the Chorley Guardian.

As previously reported, two Chorley soldiers feature in a special series of film footage from the Far East between 1944 and 1946, which were originally screened at cinemas for family members to see their loved ones.

A still from the 'Calling Blighty' film footage, featuring Tom Gillett A Chorley Guardian annual outing to Blackpool circa 1950, which Tom and his wife Winnie attended Tom at his Linotype at the Chorley Guardian Tom in his RAF uniform This portrait was taken during Tom's time in Burma, which is also when the filming was carried out to be screened to his family back home in Chorley

A still from the 'Calling Blighty' film footage, featuring Tom Gillett A Chorley Guardian annual outing to Blackpool circa 1950, which Tom and his wife Winnie attended Tom at his Linotype at the Chorley Guardian Tom in his RAF uniform This portrait was taken during Tom's time in Burma, which is also when the filming was carried out to be screened to his family back home in Chorley

After Flashback published an article recently about the North West Film Archive’s ‘A Message Home’ project – an initiative to find as many families and veterans as possible associated with the footage - one of the soldier’s sons has been in touch.

Denys Gillett is the son of the soldier known previously as only LAC Gillett, from No.5 Ops Room RAF - whose name we now know is Tom.

And 81-year-old Denys, who grew up in Letchworth Drive, Chorley, and now lives in Westhoughton, has also told of the family’s connections with the Guardian.

“My father did his apprenticeship with the Chorley Guardian after he left St Gregory’s school in Weldbank, Chorley,” he says. “He started as a Linotype operator, using the machine which sets the lines.

This portrait was taken during Tom's time in Burma

This portrait was taken during Tom's time in Burma

“He was sent to war in 1942 I think - he was at the older end really, he wasn’t taken straight away.

“He did a lot of work with the Home Guard in Chorley before that.

“He went abroad in 1944, stationed in Burma as a wireless operator for the RAF, and was demobilised in ’46.”

On his return home, Tom continued working for the Chorley Guardian and became a proof-reader.

Denys adds: “He then started his own business, the Red Rose Press, in Chorley. He produced newspapers for the Catholic community, which he took to the Guardian to be printed.”

Denys himself also went on to take on an apprenticeship at the Guardian, as a printer.

He went into the forces when he was 21 before returning to the printing trade to produce Christmas cards and paperback books.

He eventually became the printing manager for the Bolton Evening News.

“Newspapers have always been in my blood,” he says. “I got it from my dad. I was made to go into it really; that’s how it was done in those days.”

Denys remembers going to the Odeon cinema with his mum Winnie and brother Terry, who now lives in Bolton, to see Tom in the film.

Denys was only 10 at the time, so doesn’t remember too much, and his sister Margaret, who lives in Northumberland, wasn’t yet born.

But Tom made sure to give each family member a special mention in the footage.

He said: “Hello Winnie, it’s nice to be able to speak to you like this.

“I hope you are all right and that the baby’s coming along fine.

“I suppose Terry’s swanking now that he’s got long pants.

“Tell Denys to get stuck into that homework or he knows what he’ll get.

“Give my love to mum and dad and all the family.”

Waving his hat, he finished his message with: “Cheerio, God bless. I’ll be seeing you.”

Thankfully he made it home safe, and as well as his successful career in newspapers, Tom also became a published author and historian.

Denys explains: “He’s written books about Chorley including a football one called ‘Magpie Parade’, and one about the history of St Gregory’s Church in Weldbank Lane.

“He was quite the historian really.”

Tom died at the age of 78, when he was living in Astley Road.

n Visit www.chorley-guardian.co.uk to see the video footage