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Stone veteran Dr Barrie Farnham's wartime letters shared by widow Joyce

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: June 14, 2014

By Alison Thomas

  • WAR HERO...the young Barrie Farnham in 1944

  • WAR MEMORIES...Joyce Farnham with some of her memorabilia

  • WAR MEMORIES...Joyce Farnham with some of her memorabilia

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ON May 25 1944 Sub-Lieutenant Barrie Farnham of the Royal Navy was short of reading matter and writing to his mum to send him a copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace.

"Should last me out to the next war," he wrote.

But it's unlikely that the young officer ended up with much time for reading - within a fortnight he was embroiled in the D-Day landings, and later went on to take part in the fierce fighting around Antwerp.

After the war he trained as a doctor at the Middlesex Hospital - and as Dr Farnham became a much-loved GP in Stone.

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He died last October and copies of his wartime letters are now the proud possession of his widow Joyce Farnham, a borough and town councillor and former Mayor of Stafford.

"His mother kept copies of all his letters and I have seven notebooks full of them," Mrs Farmham, of Airdale Road, Stone, said.

"Barrie very rarely spoke about his wartime experiences and it is fascinating to have these glimpses."

In his first letter after D-Day, dated June 9, he told his mother: "Well it's come at last. We are keeping busy as you can well imagine.

"But for goodness sake don't worry. I think we must have about the cushiest and safest job of the lot.

"It's really quite enjoyable being on the sea for long stretches again."

Like his contemporary the Rev Dick Sargent, the young Lt Farnham was in charge of landing craft taking troops to the Normandy beaches - and on July 10 1944 sent his mother a pressed rose picked in the Normandy countryside.

In a later letter he said: "I don't think anything much happens which I can tell you about.

The weather this last month has been pretty bad...but we have had one or two lovely trips.

"I now have a lovely beard (in my opinion) although everyone else is against it...only jealousy!"

By the autumn he was in the thick of the fighting around the Scheldt estuary near Antwerp - and writing home in cagey terms about his experiences, because all letters were censored.

"We have been a bit busy," he wrote.

"I hope you haven't been worried at all but fortunately we have been ok. We have a wizard black cat aboard, which is treasured."

Lt Farnham, who joined the Navy at the age of 18, was mentioned in dispatches from that battle when he helped rescue two sailors who had been swept overboard. But he urged his mother not to make a fuss, adding "We haven't won the VC or anything."

Mrs Farnham said her husband had been determined to join the Navy straight from school, and deferred planned medical training at Cambridge to join up.

"He was passionate about the Royal Navy and determined to join - he never thought about anything else," she said.

Mrs Farnham joined veterans and their families commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day at the National Memorial Arboretum last week.

She also took the opportunity to remember her brother Major Ernest Marlow, captured by the Japanese at Singapore in 1942, who weighed just five stone when he was liberated from a prisoner of war camp three years later.

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