Posted 7th December 2019

All Hallows resident celebrates his 103rd birthday.

World War Two veteran Douglas Huke recently celebrated his 103rd birthday with his family at All Hallows Nursing Home in Bungay.

Mr Huke was born during the First World War on July 24, 1916 at the Post Office in Bramfield, after his mother was forced to leave the family home in Lowestoft due to shelling by German forces. Aged 14, he left St Margaret’s College in Lowestoft to begin working in a motor repair shop and in 1932 Mr Huke’s sister Majorie made friends with a girl called Violet Cooper. 8 years later in 1940 she became Douglas’ wife but only after the wedding was postponed twice due to Mr Huke being called back to the SS Ormonde, as he had now joined the Merchant Navy, following the outbreak of the Second World War.

Whilst serving in the Merchant Navy during World War Two, on 17 June 1940, Douglas was on board SS Ormonde which was taking part in the evacuation of allied forces in Western France from St Nazaire, towards the end of the Battle of France. During the evacuation, the troopship Lancastria, crammed full of British soldiers, and French, Dutch and Belgian women and children attempting to flee France, was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe. It caught fire and sank quickly. Douglas recalls it being a terrible sight, oil tanks ablaze and all people could do was jump into the fiery sea. The sinking of the Lancastria represents the greatest loss of life in British Maritime history. While aboard the SS Ormonde Mr Huke visited places across the globe such as Brisbane, Cape Town, the Suez Canal and Norway.

After being discharged, Mr Huke worked for British Rail for 36 years carrying out a variety of roles before retiring in 1981 on his 65th birthday. After the war, Mr & Mrs Huke had a son, Roger who sadly passed away in 2003, while Mrs Huke passed in 2000 after the couple had been married for 59 years.

Mr Huke’s war time memories are to be featured in a forthcoming book by Bungay author Victoria Panton Bacon. Called ‘Remarkable Journeys of World War Two, Douglas’ story is one of twelve chapters of previously untold memories of these challenging vital years. These unique testimonies are a link to the past, each one as enlightening as it is informative. Douglas’ chapter is no exception; he served as a Merchant Navy Steward through all of the war.

Pat Smith, Mr Huke’s niece, paid tribute to her uncle: “He is remarkable and an inspiration to us all. His memories of World War Two enable us to know more of what he and so many experienced, for which we have so much to be thankful for.”

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