Previous Page  12-13 / 36 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 12-13 / 36 Next Page
Page Background

Though known for being wooden

around 20% of it was metal, “what

we’re looking for is the things you

don’t think about, for example the

hinges and bolts which would have

secured the cannon. These things

are quite rare, even if its old and

battered, at least we can reverse

engineer it to get some new

ones made”.

Jon Phillips is currently restoring

a Second World War era German

Assault Gun, a Stug III. Jon’s Stug

was sent to North Africa where it

was captured by the British in May

1942. Shipped back to the Pirbright,

in the UK, it languished on the firing

range. Film footage exists of it being

used for anti-tank target practice by

soldiers firing a PIAT. The hole made

can still be seen where it pierced

the armour. When Jon acquired the

Stug it was a wreck, the weather had

taken its toll and it had suffered from

decades of abuse at the hands of the

British Army.

Starting his restoration he

decided to record the process on

Facebook. He’s been surprised by

the response, thousands of people

are keenly following his progress.

After appealing for parts he’s been

staggered, “people from all over got

in contact. I had to go to Romania

to collect a front drive which was

complete, another guy in Normandy

had the other drive. I never thought

in a million years I’d find them”.

Recently on the Facebook page he

appealed for a rubber antenna mount

for the radio, within 24 hours “Pascal

in Belgium” had responded he had

one and donated it to the project.

But its not just sheds and attics

that hold hidden gems. From a

building site in Russia came the gun

mantlet, which is the armoured plate

surrounding the gun. It had been

used for driving steel pilings into the

ground, “it still had the marks on it,

but it wasn’t damaged the armour is

so incredibly hard”.

Tucked away in many homes are

items now orphaned, brought back

or rescued, the original owner has

passed away and the significance

or origins are now unknown. The


What’s in the attic?

People’s Mosquito welcome queries

from people if they think they have

old “Mossie” parts, John Lilley

concludes “ if you have something,

and you’re not sure get in contact.

Ross can pick out a Mosquito part

from about six thousands

miles away”.

So next time you rummage through

an old tin of rusty metal parts when

you’re in the shed, give a thought to

where they could be from.

The People’s Mosquito is a

registered charity and can be found



to follow Jon Phillips and his Stug

III restoration go to www.facebook. com/StugIIIAusfDRestoration.

When Geoff Simmons visited our

stand at the Who Do You Think

You Are Live show with news of his

worthy project, we jumped at the

chance to help:

Watch the video here

The Summerstown182 project started

in 2013 when I had a vague idea to

find out where the 182 names on the

local First World War memorial in

the church next door to my house in

south west London lived. I put them

on a map, indicating each home with

a poppy. It was pretty interesting

and soon became clear that they all

lived about five or ten minutes’ walk

from the church and that the effect

on the area must have been utterly

devastating. To promote the project

we started a blog and a series of

guided walks, actually going past

the homes of who we now refer to

as the ‘Summerstown182’. Gradually

this turned into something more.

Our MP, Sadiq Khan expressed his

enthusiasm, local historical societies

were keen to offer support and

we received good coverage in the

press and via social media. Best of

all, ordinary people got involved

and wanted to help, scouring

genealogy sites, museum archives

and old electoral rolls to help find

information, knocking on doors and

stopping folk in the street.

It soon became clear that the project

had a life span, the length of the

centenary period, and in that time

our mission would be to discover

something about each one of the

names. Two and a half years later,

we have about 100 written posts on

our blog. Our war memorial, which

appeared a few years ago as a

random collection of names - about

whom nothing was known - has now

dramatically come to life. The project

has uncovered some extraordinary

stories, which will now be preserved

forever, and has helped us feel much

more connected to the area we call

home. We now have two and a half

years to complete the project and

write up all 182 stories. To help us do

that, we are currently in the process

of applying for Heritage Lottery

funding which would allow us to

develop our work with schools and

extend the project further through

our own history group. We’d also

like to organise a ‘military history

roadshow’ in local libraries, the idea

being that people bring along old

photos, medals or mementoes and

we help them find out something

about them.

People new to the area are fascinated

by what we do but so are those who

may have moved away but whose

family roots lie here. Many have re-

visited and our Walks have provided

some emotional occasions, bringing

back so many memories, with old

neighbours re-acquainting and

sharing photos on the street. Thanks

to the work of the likes of Sheila,

Christine, Marion and Chris, we have

now made contact with the families

of about 50 of the Summerstown182,

very few of whom live locally.

Through using resources such as

Forces War Records, Ancestry, parish

magazines, or good old-fashioned

talking to people, I’m able to write

the stories. Each one gives us some

new angle on the area and through

this we can build up a picture of

what life was like one hundred years

ago. But it’s not always easy and

three names out of the 182 remain a

mystery; E L Smith, G F Henry and E


We do get side-tracked a bit, we

organised a commemoration for the

70th Anniversary of a V2 bombing

incident from the Second World War

which led to the council agreeing to

place a green plaque. Three hundred

people turned up for the unveiling

ceremony. Later this year we will be

raising another plaque for Sidney

Lewis, the youngest soldier to serve

in the British Army in the First World

War who lived locally. Publicity from

these events generates interest in

the Summerstown182 and allows us

to keep our project in the public eye.

We collaborated with a local school

whose students visited France and

Belgium as part of the BBC ‘School

Report’ programme. They connected

the graves and memorials they

visited with the homes of the soldiers

in the area and interviewed relatives.

We located one 100 year old relative

of one of the Summerstown182 who

very likely once met his uncle. We

have ensured that two brothers who

died from TB after being discharged

from the army will receive formal

recognition. We have tracked down

photographs which have never been

widely seen and old stories that have

never been told, some literally from

the other side of the world. We have

visited the graves and memorials in

France and Belgium of about 50 of

the Summerstown182. Earlier this

year we inspired a group of residents

to make a trip to a Summerstown

soldier’s grave in Turkey. On a

personal level this has been one of

the most enjoyable and fulfilling

projects I have ever been involved in.

It has been a wonderful community

collaboration, which started in a very

small and unplanned way but has

grown into something so much more.

The great thing is that anyone can

do something similar - there are war

memorials all over the country and

now is the time with so much interest

in the centenary period. We have

inspired at least four other projects

that we know of, and I’m always

happy to offer advice or as I always

say ‘come on one of our walks.