VE Day 70th anniversary: The Porter private army of Weston-super-Mare

PUBLISHED: 12:30 22 April 2015

The brothers in 1939. From left to right at the back: William, Ronald, Cecil, Freddie, Leonard.  At the front: Walter, Eddie and Frank.

The brothers in 1939. From left to right at the back: William, Ronald, Cecil, Freddie, Leonard. At the front: Walter, Eddie and Frank.

Copyright 2008

IN 1945, six brothers from Weston returned to the UK from all corners of the globe as World War Two came to an end and the country celebrated Victory In Europe Day.

Eddie PorterEddie Porter

Seventy years ago, The Weston Mercury and Somersetshire Herald dubbed them the Porter Private Army, and ran a special feature about their service.

There were eight brothers from Weston in total, two of whom were not able to go to war due to their health but carried out other war-related services at home.

There were also three sisters who carried out important work in munitions factories and in the fire service.

Only one of the brothers, 88-year-old Eddie Porter, survives today. He lives with his wife Joan in Trewartha Close.

Eddie and Joan Porter.Eddie and Joan Porter.

He spent the first years of the war as a teenager at John Hodge and Co, where he was a clerk, and used to watch for fires while bombs were being dropped on Weston.

On one of those nights in June 1942, Eddie recalls a bomb hitting the Tivoli Cinema and Victoria Quadrant.

He said: “By the time I finished for the night, there weren’t many windows left on the John Hodge building and part of the front door fell off.

“It was all very close and we could easily have been hit.”

He then joined the Royal Navy and travelled on HMS Belfast to Australia, New Zealand and Japan where he saw the effects of the war and sent back food parcels for his family.

He said: “I joined up in 1944 when I was 17-and-a-half. I went into the Navy because I had been in the sea cadets.

“My other brothers were called up right from the beginning.”

One of these brothers was Leonard Porter, a private in the Royal Army Service Corps. He spent four-and-a-half years in Egypt, carrying out transport work. He resumed life as a hotelier when he returned to the UK.

Frank, who was an auctioneer, was also a private in the Royal Army Medical Corp.

Freddie was in the Hampshire Regiment and spent time in Italy, Greece and Crete. The paper said that during the campaign, he ‘more than once missed death by inches’.

Walter was a private in the Pioneer Corps. His daughter, Debbie Ward, is still living in Weston.

She has a copy of the original Mercury story, as well as her father’s war book.

She said: “I can’t believe many families in Weston had this many people serving in the war.

“My father was a milkman before the war and came back and went back to being a milkman. Most people had milk delivered at some stage by my dad.

“I think it’s fascinating what they did during the war. They all came back and just got on with their lives.”

Ronald was a corporal in the Royal Army Service Corps. The Mercury reported that while at Monty’s Army Group Headquarters in Germany he married a woman from Brighton who was attached to the same headquarters. He was involved in the D-Day Landings, and was stationed in Germany until the very end of the war.

William stayed at home and was a member of the Home Guard, who were volunteers who would protect the country if it was invaded by Germany. Cecil was an air raid warden.

Sisters Kathleen served in the National Fire Service, Joan worked in a munitions factory and Mabel kept the home going.

Eddie said: “The war had been over for around three months when I came on the Belfast.

“We were showing the flag because the war had ended.

“I visited Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. That was the nicest part, but we went to Japan with calls to Yokohama and Hiroshima and also Hong Kong and Singapore. They were all devastated by the war.

“I sent food parcels from Australia. We couldn’t get tinned fruit in England, so I sent those home.”

HMS Belfast is still docked on the Thames in London, and is now a popular tourist spot. Eddie continues to visit it for Trafalgar Night.

* VE Day will be celebrated across the country on May 8.

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