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Dad's horseback heroics; Gran tells of father's WW1 adventure.

Byline: Brian Daniel

MEMORIES award for bravery. ATALE of a war spent on horse-back has brought back memories of a Tyneside man's heroics on a French battlefield.

The Journal recently reported the Second World War story of 91-year-old Joseph Shea, from Ponteland, who was moved to contact us amid a wave of publicity over new Hollywood blockbuster War Horse.

Mr Shea had served in Newcastle-based cavalry regiment the Northumberland Hussars.

He was involved in building a pickett's line to which horses were tethered, feeding the animals, and enjoyed some bareback riding.

Mr Shea was inspired by news of the film to send us pictures of his time with the Hussars.

Now, his tale has prompted Nancy Worrall to get in touch with us to recount the story of her father George Barrett.

Her dad, a lifelong soldier, was a regimental sergeant major in the Royal Horse Artillery.

George held this rank at Redditch and later at Newcastle's Fenham Barracks.

However, it was on the French battlefield in the First World War that he achieved astonishing feats of bravery.

Acting alone, George rounded up "war crazed" horses, for which he was later given the Oak Leaf, a medal for bravery.

Nancy, 88, of Wellfield Lane in Westerhope, said: "I think it was very hard to get, it was a very unusual thing to get really." George married Ann Buchanan while based at Fenham, meeting the Fenwicks worker at a dance, and once he had retired from the Armed Forces, the couple settled in Newcastle.

Nancy was one of two children the couple had, with both following in their father's footsteps in joining the Armed Forces - the late Lawrence as a wireless operator in the Royal Air Force and Nancy joining the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and working in teleprinting - the sending of secret messages.

George died in 1941 aged 54, having long suffered from the effects of mustard gas which he was exposed to during the war. Nancy recalls being "Daddy's darling" as a young girl but says she knew little of his life in the forces.

"I knew he had been a soldier all his life but he was retired by the time I was born and growing up," she said.

"When I got to know my father, I was 18. When he died my mother opened up about him for the first time. They never tell you when they are alive.

"It was rather sad that he was not there to ask but that is what happens."

Newcastle-born and a city schoolgirl living at Wrekenton for eight years, Nancy joined the WAAF aged 18, serving during the Second World War from 1941 to 1946.

She trained at Cranwell and was initially based at Watnall near Nottingham. It was while based there that her father died with her returning North for his funeral.

Nancy was soon transferred close to home, to a bunker, then secret, at Kenton, where she was for six months. She later moved to the Far East, based at what was then Ceylon and India.

While at Ceylon, Nancy married husband Gordon, now 90.

She had met him before the war and received a surprise letter from him during the conflict.

It turned out the duo were both serving in Ceylon, unbeknown to each other, him with the Royal Navy.

Together the couple had two children, Barry and Janice, and now have three grandchildren.

After the war, Nancy held a few different jobs and started writing, producing a book on her time in the women's Air Force entitled Lambs in Blue.


MEMORIES Nancy Worrall, whose dad George Barnett was given an award for bravery in WW1 for rounding up horses on a French battlefield. Right, Nancy from the 1940s when she was in the RAF. Far right, George from the 1920s.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 1, 2012
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