Can you help unite a D-Day veteran with a photograph of his close friend Pte George Rook from Biggleswade?
A D-Day veteran interviewed for a history book has spoken movingly about a close friend and comrade from Biggleswade who was later killed in action, but of whom he has no photograph – and the author has appealed to the public to help find one for him.
Vernon Jones, who is now 93, served with Biggleswade’s Pte Frederick George Rook in the Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry’s 1st Battalion during the Second World War, and went through the Normandy landings of 1944 with him before George was killed in western Germany in 1945.
Vernon has visited George’s grave in the Reichswald regularly, and his sadness at never having a photograph of his close friend has prompted writer Roy Bailey – who interviewed him for a book about D-Day veterans – to appeal for help finding one.
Speaking about George, Vernon said: “We were great pals, done everything together and we went on D-Day together.
“We plodded on through and we just got into Germany and my dear old friend, he gets killed.
“We never had any photographs because we never had any cameras over there, so I never had a photograph of him. I tried my utmost to get in touch with some of his relatives – he wasn’t married – but he was 29 years of age, a bit older than me.
“I tried to get in touch with relatives. I got plenty of people of his name but they were nothing to do with him. So I never found out where his family were. But he was my dear old friend and I go back to him every year because he is buried in the Reichswald too, where he got killed.
“I’m not ashamed to say it – I go down to talk to him and I shed a tear. I can picture him as he was. He’d be over 100 now, because he was 29. I’m 93 now.
“He was one of my best friends, a really good friend. We were such good friends that we would do anything for each other.”
George, the son of Frederick and Florence Rook, was born in Biggleswade and died on February 16, 1945. He kept a smallholding with his father in Biggleswade, and volunteered to join the army as he was the youngest in his family.
He died during the Battle of the Reichswald, the Allied push towards the Rhine in the latter stages of the war.
“One of them had to go so he volunteered and said, ‘I’ll go’ – and that’s what happened to poor George,” Vernon added.
“We used to go on route marches and poor old George, he wasn’t as fit as I was, he was a big lad. He used to suffer on planned route marches.
“He used to moan and groan but we stuck together. But he wasn’t the army type, he didn’t like the army – the one thing he didn’t want was to join the army, but nevertheless...”
Roy said: “Vernon is sad that he has never had a picture of his close friend, and it may be that members of the Rook family are still in the Biggleswade area, or one of the Comet’s readers may know of them.
“If anyone has a picture of George and could send me a copy, that would give a great deal of pleasure to a veteran.”
Anyone who thinks they may be able to help track down a photograph of Vernon’s friend George Rook can contact Roy on 01488 648441 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to him at The Malt House, Great Shefford, Hungerford, Berks, RG17 7ED.