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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Barrow visit evokes memory of wartime sacrifice

WHEN May Ledson signed up to the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force at the height of the Second World War, her life was to change forever.

At the tender age of 19, she fell in love with Oscar Griffiths, a trainee with Bomber Command.

The couple spent the next two years courting while they were stationed at Walney airfield but their romance was to end in tragedy in 1944 when Oscar – known as Griff – was shot down on his final mission.

May went on to marry and her daughter Barbara Huxley visited the airfield for the first time yesterday after linking up with the son of another Walney war volunteer; Edith Owen.

Mrs Huxley, who lives in Formby near Liverpool, and Edith’s son Michael Gill from Newcastle, were given special access to the airfield by BAE Systems.

They were shown around by aerodrome by manager John Ismay.

Mrs Huxley, 65, had hoped to bring her mother, now 91, but she had been too ill to make the journey.

Mrs Huxley said: “Michael was researching his mum’s life and got in touch. It turned out the two had been friends.

“Mum had told me about what happened to Oscar.

“After his final mission, they had planned to go down to his family in Swansea so they could buy a ring and get married but he was shot down while on his final mission over Cologne.”

The tragic tale of May’s lost love has stayed with her throughout her life but as her daughter explained, May’s sadness was felt by many others at the time.

“She said to me ‘it happened to thousands of women’,” Mrs Huxley said.

“It was very much a case of ‘get on with it’ at the time, because of the war.”

Mr Gill, whose mother died when he was just five, had been keen to fill in the blanks in her story and was grateful for the opportunity to visit the airfield.

He said: “I know she lied about her age so she could sign up. She said she was three years older than she really was.

“She died when I was young so it’s nice to be able to find out so much about her life.”

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