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Why was Albert in Huddersfield? all our yesterdays.

Byline: Andrew Hirst Head of Content andrew.hirst@examiner.co.uk

IT'S a love story from the days just after the end of the First World War but ended in tragedy in World War Two.

Janet Green's great aunt Lilian married a Belgian ex-soldier, Albert Oyen, in 1919 after meeting him at the mill in Milnsbridge ... and she's trying to find out just why he was in Huddersfield.

Albert and Lilian married at Huddersfield Register Office in November 1919 and the marriage certificate identifies Albert as 30 and living at Longwood Road near Milnsbridge and that he was working as a metal turner. Lilian was 22, living at Dowker Street in Milnsbridge and worked as a woollen weaver.

Janet, who lives near Ripponden, said: "So if they did meet at work, did Lilian also work in an ammunition factory during the war or did Albert, at some time or other, work in the woollen mill? I'm having difficulty finding out."

Lilian Whitwam was born in 1897 in Slaithwaite to parents Charles Whitwam and Sarah (nee Taylor). She had a sister, Gladys, born in 1900 in Linthwaite, and an older brother, Fred, born in 1894 in Slaithwaite. Fred was a bandsman in 2/4th Duke of Wellington West Riding Regiment and in August 1916 was pictured in the band of the 34th battalion the Northumberland Fusiliers. He survived the war.

Fred was Janet's grandfather and his daughter, Dorothy Auty, is now 88 and lives in Netherton.

When Albert and Lilian's first child, Eddy, was born in October 1920 they lived in Lockwood, but in 1925 Albert, Lilian and Eddy moved to Antwerp in Belgium and in October 1926 their second son, Charles, was born.

Janet said: "When World War Two came the story is that they got to the dock to get a ship to England but it was full and was the last one so they ended up being captured by German soldiers and doing forced labour in Germany.

"They were split up and never saw Albert again. I don't know at this stage what Lilian was doing but the two sons were working at the chemical company IG Farben. They survived and were freed by the Russians in May 1945."

IG Farben's pro-Nazi leadership collaborated with Hitler to produce the large quantities of Zyklon B necessary to gas to death millions of Jews and the firm ceased operating with the fall of Nazi Germany.

Janet added: "Albert had to work as a toolmaker at the railway factory in Potsdam in Germany where he died.

"One story is that he died in a bombardment and another is that he was shot for refusing to go to the shelters during an air raid. I do not know where Lilian was during this time, but she survived and later she was living in Borgerhout, Antwerp, with Eddy and Charles. The three of them visited family in Milnsbridge on a few occasions and I am still in touch with Eddy's son."

Albert was born in Borgerhout in 1889. On August 8, 1914, aged 25, he volunteered for military service in Charleroi (1st regiment Chasseurs a Pied). At the end of August he was sent to Herzele to assist the local Gendarmerie, but was seriously wounded.

Albert was taken to the military hospital in Ghent but during that night the hospital had to be evacuated and everyone was taken to Dunkirk. They were then transported by ship to Cardiff and were the first Belgian wounded to arrive in the UK.

On October 19, 1914, he was transferred to Swansea where he stayed for a long time. After his recovery he went to London to be examined by the Belgian Army and was found to be unfit for further military service. He worked in an ammunition factory until the end of the war.

Janet said: "Where the factory was I haven't been able to discover, but I think it may have been in the Huddersfield area as the story is that he met my great-aunt Lilian Whitwam where they were working."

Janet believes people who remember Lilian's brother, Fred, may be able to help.

She added: "I have more pictures of Fred with other soldiers in uniform so if anyone thinks someone in their family served with Fred and is interested in seeing them, please get in touch.

"Also, if anyone knows how to find out where people were working during World War One, particularly in ammunition factories, I'd be very pleased to hear from them as it would be interesting to know where Albert and Lilian met."

Contact Janet at 54stroslla@madasafish.com Lilian |

CAPTION(S):

| Lilian Whitwam and her |Belgian husband Albert Oyen (above) and (right) Albert in his army uniform

| Lilian Whitwam later in life with her older brother Fred Whitwam. Fred was a bandsman in 2/4th Duke of |Wellington West Riding Regiment and in August 1916 was pictured in the band of the 34th battalion the Northumberland Fusiliers
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Mar 4, 2015
Words:828
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