WHY WE SHOULD HONOUR MY BROTHER'S BRAVERY; A MERSEYSIDE man is fighting for his World War ll hero brother to be officially honoured. EMMA GUNBY reports.
DESPITE undergoing horrific torture at the hands of the Gestapo Robert `Jock' Ewart refused to give away the details of his secret mission.
His punishment was death. For the past 60 years his brother George, 63, from Maghull, has been campaigning for his big brother's bravery to be officially recognised.
Sergeant Ewart was one of the famous Cockleshell Heroes, whose mission was so daring that it was made into a 1955 film starring Anthony Newley and Christopher Lee.
Ewart and 11 other volunteers agreed to paddle five canoes -nicknamed cockleshells -70 miles along the Nazi-held Gironde River in France to attack enemy shipping in the Bordeaux harbour.
But disaster struck when Ewart's canoe was hit by a freak wave -he was never seen again.
George, who is originally from Glasgow, says: ``I was 11 at the time and I remember my dad coming home from work,he was carrying a newspaper in his hands and sobbing.
``I remember seeing the headline on the paper Two Scots killed.
``That is how we found out Robert was dead. The day after an official from the Ministry of Defence came and told us officially.''
Ewart's colleagues carried on their mission and successfully blew up the enemy ships but only two of the men who had set out on December 7 1942 came home alive.
The two survivors Bill Sparks and Lt Col Herbert Hasler did not learn that they owed their lives to Sgt Ewart until 40 years later.
George says: ``In 1982 we were invited over to Blanquefort,near Bordeaux,for a ceremony in honour of my brother and the rest of the Cockleshell heroes.
``When we arrived we were taken to the Chateau Dehez, which had been occupied by the Nazis during the war, but had now been taken over by a wine company.
``It was as though time had stood still in the chateau, there was a huge four poster bed covered in dusty sheets and vast wooden floors - you could almost hear the jack boots marching along them.
``There were swastikas carved in the walls, it was unbelievably eerie.''
But what was more important was that this was the place where George's brother had met his death.
``The wine guys told us that the place had lain empty since the war but when they bought it they discovered a makeshift plaque on the wall saying that two British soldier had died there.
``They investigated and found out that Robert and his colleague had been washed ashore and captured by the Nazis and taken to the chateau.
``He told them his boat had been torpedoed but they discovered his canoe and realised he was on some kind of secret mission.
``They tortured him but he refused to reveal the details of his mission so they executed him.''
Ewart was taken outside and lined up against a bunker outside the chateau and shot. He was only 19.
The bullet marks that took his life still scar the wall.
George adds: ``His refusal to tell the Germans what he was doing saved the mission and the lives of at least two of his friends.
``He displayed such bravery and was a true hero of the war.
``Churchill said that the Cockleshell mission shortened the war by six weeks and Earl Mountbatten described it as the most outstanding commando raid of the Second World War.
``If my brother had not had the bravery to keep his mouth shut the raid would not have been successful.''
Years later Ewart's family were sent pounds 3000 by the German government as `compensation'for his torture.
George says: ``Mum sent it back to them, she didn't want their money.''
ESPITE there being several monuments to the Cockleshell soldiers in France, the UK has never officially recognised the role that Ewart played in the war.
George is now campaigning for his brother to be awarded a posthumous Mention In Dispatches in recognition of his bravery.
Sefton East MP George Howarth is backing the campaign and has written to Adam Ingram, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces.
The Cockleshell survivors, Bill Sparks and Lt Col Herbert Hasler, who have since passed away, received distinguished service medals for their roles in the mission.
But these can not be awarded to soldiers after their death,no matter how heroic their actions have been.
George adds: ``The manner of my brother's death has always been with me and my family.
``My mother died with his last ever letter tucked underneath her pillow,it read: `Pleasedon't upset yourself over my safety. My heart will be with you always. You are the best parents I could wish to have.
```Anyway,Mum you can always say you had a son in the most senior service and though I say it myself one of 12 heroes.'''
LOCAL HERO: Robert Ewart (inset above,far left) who was executed during World War ll; a painting of the Cockleshell Heroes (mainpicture); the bunker in France where Robert was shot by the Nazis (left, this page); George Ewart (above) -who is fighting his own battle to honour his brother Robert -with Cockleshell hero Bill Sparks at the bunker where Robert was killed (below)
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|Publication:||Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||Jul 31, 2003|
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