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'Sweet home, I'll come back to you' SOLDIER'S D-DAY POEM SHARED BY GRANDAUGHTER.

Byline: DAVE ROBSON dave.robson@trinitymirror.com @Daverobson_gaz

A POIGNANT poem, written by a Teesside soldier on board a D-Day landing craft, will always remind Emma West of her beloved grandad.

The moving words were penned by Sergeant John Stainley West of Stokesley - one of the first Allied troops to land on the Normandy beaches in 1944.

But as he waited in that cramped landing craft off the French coast, his thoughts turned to home - and this poem was the result.

And Emma, who today shares it with Gazette readers, says it brings her comfort every Armistice and Remembrance Day.

Emma tells how in 1944, John was serving with a division of the Canadian Army, where he specialised in mine detectors and detonators.

His mission was to help to clear minefields in northern France and other parts of Europe.

But one can only imagine how this 28-year-old son of a Stokesley chemist was feeling when he penned his touching words.

Emma, formerly of Guisborough, said: " Apparently he wrote it at 3am while they were in the English Channel, waiting for the order to go ashore. I just think it's a lovely poem and it's amazing to think he wrote it when he did."

After D-Day, John had an extraordinary war campaign while serving with the 116th Light Ack Ack Company, Royal Artillery, and ended up as an official British War Photographer at the Belsen concentration camp.

Not surprisingly, his experiences never left him and after returning to England in September 1945, having contracted a disease at Belsen that attacked his nervous system, he was hospitalised for five months.

His illness affected him for the next 10 years, resulting in loss of memory and repeated nightmares.

Post-war, he returned to live in Stokesley with wife Joan and three children and was a well-known figure, running the family chemist's for many years. He died in 1999.

Emma, who served with the Royal Navy, said: "I think of my Gaga (grandad) a lot but more so on the run up to Remembrance.

"When I was doing my training, he used to write to me a lot and would always sign it "Courage West" - it was our little motto.

"He didn't speak to his family about what he went through in the war, bless his heart - it was far too painful. But he's my hero."

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 11, 2017
Words:392
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