Photo finish to 50-year mystery

Ann Lawson with the photograph album.
Ann Lawson with the photograph album.

A PERSONAL album of army life in Europe could be reunited with its owner, 50 years after it was thrown in a skip.

Private carer Ann Lawson is trying to trace the rightful owner of the photo album, titled Those Army Days, October 2, 1958 – September 26, 1960, after saving it from the rubbish dump all those years ago.

Mrs Lawson, 74, had been walking near her Shilvington home in about 1960 when she noticed the red-bound album in a skip. She asked around to try to find out who it belonged to, but nobody laid a claim so she put it to one side.

But she came across the unique record again this year when building work was carried out to her home and she has renewed her attempts to hand it back to its owner.

“The condition of the album is like new so really somebody who is connected to it should have it,” said Mrs Lawson.

“It was just in a skip. I was walking down a street and I saw it sticking out and thought it was too good to throw away so I scooped it out and took it home. That was around about 1960. I went to my neighbours to show them it to see if it was theirs or if they wanted it, but they all said no so it was just put away.

“I was living in a caravan recently while a new roof was put on my house and when I started to bring things back into the house I came across it again.

“I just want to find out who it belongs to. There has to be somebody who knows who these young lads in the pictures are.”

The album is packed with clues about its owner as captions accompany all of the photographs, however people are generally referred to by their nicknames.

A picture of men in uniform has several signatures on the back and is described as Trade Training in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) at Blackdown Barracks in November 1958, Squadron Intake 58/19.

The album begins in Amsterdam in 1959, with groups of young men pictured around the city, including on the roof of Amstel Breweries.

It moves on to casual images from the camp, with ‘Scouse, Jeff, Dave and Joe larking around’, and a group in full military uniform, titled ‘After St Barbara’s Day Parade (the only one I was in)’.

There are rugby matches, trips to Hamburg and Denmark, and pictures from the Nijmegen March in 1960, which is an annual international event held to celebrate the liberation of the Netherlands from Germany after the Second World War.

However, among the light-hearted pictures, there are moments of poignancy and tragedy.

In one image, ‘The Boys - Taffy, Brum, Ginge and Ray’, are seen laughing and smiling while having a drink, but later in the album there is a military funeral, titled ‘R.I.P. Taffy’ and a memorial cross to Pte James O. Stickler, born 30.9.1938, died 21.12.1959.

The album comes to a close at RAOC, Bracht, with a rehearsal for Sgt Newall’s funeral.

There is a further hint as to the album’s owner in the picture of ‘Ronnie Timmons, Cousin from America’, but the biggest clue is a postcard from Hamburg to Mr and Mrs J Donachey in Liverpool, signed by Ken.

Mrs Lawson said: “I haven’t got a clue why the album was put in a skip all those years ago, maybe it was bought in a jumble sale and not wanted, or maybe it was stolen and then thrown away, but the people in the pictures are somebody’s sons. These men probably have grandchildren by now and would love them to see these photographs.

“It’s a shame for the album just to be packed away because the families of these people would really appreciate it and I would love it to go back to those families.”

Anyone with information about the album can contact the Herald on 01670 517171.