Greenwich war veteran's emotional visit to Singapore memorial

Greenwich war veteran's emotional visit to Singapore memorial

Charles Medhurst holding framed photo of his brother Henry (pic by Sandra Rowse)

Charles Medhurst in uniform during wartime service (Pic by Sandra Rowse)

Charles Medhurst (Pic by Sandra Rowse)

First published in News
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A Greenwich war veteran is about to embark on an emotional journey to see his brother’s name on a Singapore war memorial.
  
Second World War veteran Charles Medhurst, 89, has received a £4,070  grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return programme to visit the Kranji War Memorial.

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At the age of 17 he learned that his 19-year-old brother Henry had been killed in Burma.
 
Recalling how he found out, he said: "I had a terrible feeling as I opened the telegram. I had to go and tell my mother, who collapsed. She never got over it."
 
Mr Medhurst never knew how his brother had been killed - until last year when he got a letter from the Royal Air Force.
 
He said: "Henry was ground staff with the air force in Burma. They were being evacuated as the Japanese advanced but didn’t get out in time. The Japanese launched an attack on the airfield in Toungoo with grenades and mortars.

"My brother Henry died aged just 19. He would have been 92 if he were alive today. When I think about how young he was when he died, it’s tragic. He was just one of thousands."
 
A life-long east Greenwich resident and the longest serving member of Christ Church, Charles Medhurst had never left home before he was drafted in July 1943.

He then found himself as a telegraphist on the HMS Malaya during his service. As a telegraphist in the Navy, Mr Medhurst had to take down Morse code messages at a speed of 26 words a minute. 

His battleship took part in the bombardment of German fortifications on the French island of Cezembre. He recalled: "When you have eight 15-inch guns firing broadsides it has quite an impact on you. It’s frightening."

Sailing all over the world, from San Francisco to Tuvalu in the Pacific, he described his time enlisted as "shattering".

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When they reached Pearl Harbor, the crew could still see the tops of the ships that were sunk in the Japanese attack. He said: "We were constantly on duty so didn’t really have time to think about the dangers."

Mr Medhurst returned home on an aircraft carrier via the Suez Canal and was demobbed in October 1946.
 
The Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return programme has awarded over £28m to more than 57,000 First World War veterans, widows and carers since 2004. For details call 0845 00 00 121 or visit biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn

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