Family seeks answers to Len's war

Len Hitchens, like so many others who fought in the war, did not speak about his experiences.

 Len Hitchens
Len Hitchens

But now his relatives are trying to piece together the clues to learn more about his story, which included being rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk, serving in the elite SAS, and, perhaps, serving on Montgomery's staff, reaching the rank of Captain.

"He was my father-in-law, and he never told the family anything, so we are having to put the story together, with little bits and pieces," said Mrs Beryl Hitchens, nee Lewis, of Bridgnorth.

Leonard Hitchens was originally from Cornwall, and lived later in Fordhouses, Wolverhampton.

"He signed up when he was 17, saying that he was 18. The Northumberland Fusiliers were recruiting down there. When the war began he must have been in France, because he got stuck behind the German lines.

"He was a Sergeant, and after all his officers were killed he led a platoon out from behind the lines and onto the Dunkirk beaches. He was one of the last to be rescued. He came home plastered in mud."

Back in Britain, he went on to join the SAS, and told his family he was training in Wales.

Beryl, who hails originally from Wolverhampton, said: "Not long before the war finished his wife said she was sick of the war and asked when it was going to end.

He said: 'Don't worry, it won't be long now – we are going to do a massive parachute drop and he would be part of it."

She thinks it's possible that he had inside knowledge through being on Field Marshal Montgomery's staff although, like so much of his military exploits, the details are shadowy.

"My daughter has researched the records up until he went into the SAS, and we can't get hold of them because they're secret, but we have picked up things from the internet."

Apparently Len was offered a medal by the French Resistance, but did not accept it.

Having come through the war, his life was to be affected by an operation in his 50s.

"I don't know what happened. I think they slipped with a scalpel and cut his coccyx at the bottom of his spine, and he never walked properly again after that," said Beryl.

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