West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Letters Page

A WARTIME MEETING

ADDED 21 APRIL 2006

It is with great regret to have to thank the Germans for anything but on this occasion, if it had not been for them I wouldn’t be here – a true Pontefractium.

During the 1920s my grandmother, Barbara Jones, moved to this area from South Wales with her family when her father found work at Fryston Colliery. She settled here and I think they lived in a big house at the top of Northgate. Her mother, Emily Jones, owned a second-hand shop, somewhere near the bus station, which later became a bookmakers. Apparently it was opposite the old Bullock’s shop which even I can remember and I wasn’t born until 1970 although it has all been demolished now.

During the war they used to take in families evacuated from the city’s as well as soldiers here on leave

During the war, when my gran was about 17 years old, she met my grandfather, Kenneth Hebblethwaite. Ironically, Kenneth was from North Wales but the reason he found himself in Pontefract in 1941 was that he was one of the 300,000 soldiers evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk and was sent here after getting back on English soil.

I always thought he had been accommodated in Pontefract Barracks but not so. Opposite the Town Hall, above the few shops which are today an opticians, a phone shop and Peel’s Chemist, was a barracks on the upper level where many Dunkirk soldiers were actually housed. My gran recalls the first time she met him – shoeless in bare feet. It was love at first sight!

From Pontefract my grandfather was posted to Burma but after the war they settled together in Pontefract raising four children including my father who was born in 1947. There are now lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

My gran has lived in a number of places around Pontefract including the Booths, Nevison, Chequerfield, Horsefair Flats and she now resides in Micklegate Square – a real townie she is!

So, if it hadn’t been for the German advance towards Dunkirk my granddad would never have found himself in Pontefract and the Hebblethwaite family would never have grown here. For that alone I have to thank them.

Lee Hebblethwaite
21 April 2006


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