Hope it never happens again

Shirley and Mike Holdsworth with John 'Jack' Allen Holdsworth's medals and wartime diary that has been reproduced in new book My War on Wheels.Picture by Neil Silk  124947
Shirley and Mike Holdsworth with John 'Jack' Allen Holdsworth's medals and wartime diary that has been reproduced in new book My War on Wheels.Picture by Neil Silk 124947
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Just before Jack Holdsworth’s death, he handed his son a large brown envelope containing medals and a diary of his experiences during the Second World War.

The story of comradery and tragedy that had been documented during the years of conflict moved his family to tears.

Now, almost seven years later, the honest account of one of the first transport men to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp has been reproduced in a new book.

‘My War on Wheels’ has been typed up and published by Mike and Shirley Holdsworth, Jack’s son and daughter-in-law, in memory of the Seamer army veteran.

An unaltered version of the original manuscript, the book features copies of photographs, drawings and a handwritten epilogue.

The autobiography of John ‘Jack’ Allen Holdsworth begins in 1939 when he enlists as a wagon driver for the Royal Army Service Corps, ending in 1945 when he arrives home for Christmas.

The fascinating tale of his travels was an eye-opener for Mike, 68, of Osgodby, who was unaware of the extreme conditions his father had faced during the conflict.

He said: “My father was a milkman at the Co-op most of his life, a quiet and happy family man and I did not know much about the five years service he gave to his country during the Second World War. He just did not talk about it. It came as a shock really.

“One of the biggest things that sticks out in my mind was that he was one of the first transport men into Belsen and the chimneys were still smoking. He took photographs of it and it was horrific. He was bringing the bodies out. He never spoke about it and it certainly opened my eyes.”

Jack’s account of secret coded letters to his wife also fascinated Mike.

“There are all sorts of interesting bits and pieces in it. For example he arranged with my mother before he left that if he was going to France he would put a full stop next to his name and if he was going to the Far East he wouldn’t include one so she had some idea of where he would be,” he said.

Other stand-out stories include Jack being notified of his son’s birth while he was in a shell hole and a German Prisoner of War giving him a hand-carved wooden Dachshund as a gift for his baby.

“There is a particular part where he is moving German prisoners. SS guards were notoriously evil and used to sit them on the outside of the wagon because he knew they would get pelted with eggs as he drove through villages,” said Mike.

The book also features a heartwarming account of the friendship he formed with four other men, however sadly only two of the group returned home.

“He kept every detail and everything was written down on different pieces of paper. He was talking to someone once and they suggested he wrote it up properly so in his retirement that’s what he did,” said Mike.

“To see it in print gets me. My father died in 2005, aged 92, and it is the ultimate tribute to him.”

Published by Farthings, the book, priced £9.99, is on sale at Scarborough Flooring, in Victoria Road, and can also be ordered online from Amazon.

Epilogue

After writing up his original notes, Jack finished the diary with a moving epilogue that has been reproduced below:

That is my story.

I am now almost 70 years old.

I think of my son as my father thought of me 42 years ago and I wonder, perhaps, why did I write these notes?

I wrote these notes almost without thinking, perhaps I had to write them. I tell myself that my son will read them later on, and that is enough for me.

He can toss them aside and think them boring reminiscences, or, perhaps, as food for thought. The choice will be his.

As I think of him and his family I can only wish one thing - that they may never experience the kind of suffering and fear, that I knew in those years.

But what have I to fear? Such things will never happen again ever?

Perhaps...