An interview with Edna Lawn

Written by Pete Day
First Published


Edna Lawn from British Columbia, Canada contacted us to tell us a little more of her late husband Johnny.

Along with his brother Jimmy, Johnny was originally in the Highland Light Infantry and both were transferred to the RAC and into B Squadron, Water Assault Unit of the Assault & Development Centre based at Gosport in Hampshire.

Edna Lawn on her 80th Birthday.

Johnny Lawn

Edna's maiden name was Render and Johnny met her very shortly after he arrived in Burton Stather with B Squadron. They actually met at a dance at Burton Stather Village Hall in June 1944, which in those days was a weekly event, the Village Hall also doubling as a canteen. She said it was love at first sight for them and they were married not quite a year later in April 1945 when Edna was sixteen. Many of the Burton girls met and married army personnel and her friends Peggy Driver married Pvt. David Gibb, Mary Marshall married Cpl. John Porteous, Barbara Balderson married Cpl. Holmes and Enid Routledge the daughter of the then Landlord of The Sheffield Arms married Bob Cole.

Edna recalls the unit being flooded out by the Trent Aegir resulting in the soldiers temporary move to Winteringham Camp Field just as Dave Gibb describes in his interview. Later he was billeted at Normanby Hall after the Canadians had left. Her understanding of the reason the troops were sent to Burton Stather is to train for the crossing of the Rhine. The River Trent at Burton Stather was chosen because it duplicated the current, speed and width of the Rhine. During the course of WWII needs changed and the unit stayed on at Burton Stather experimenting with amphibious armoured vehicles.

Some of the names above may provoke memories for the older Burton residents and here are some more.

Eric Pugsley provided the taxis for Edna and Johnny's wedding and the photographer was Eric Wood both well know gentlemen who features heavily in the Burton Stather history. Married life for them began and after 4 months at Gosport they returned to 17 Old Row, Burton Stather where both of their children were born. Johnny was demobbed in 1946 and they also lived in Scotland for a short while before they emigrated to Canada in 1956. They and their family have had a good life in Canada although sadly Johnny passed away in 1992.

Post War Memories

Johnny Lawn at the Tank Park
Johnny Lawn, Photo taken at the Burton Tank Park.

Edna went on to talk of her memories of living in Burton Stather after the war and reminded me about a certain incident, when her son Robert was very young, of a village tearaway (me!) who gathered about twelve of the Stather children together for an outing in his fathers boat up the river. The boat had no engine and was propelled by an oar using the art of sculling. When the children had not returned by dark the police were called and all parents and villagers were out searching the banks as far up as Flixborough. The children all arrived back to Burton Stather by midnight with the young tearaway assuring everyone that there was no problem and they had all had a good day out. Even the man on duty at Keadby Bridge had obliged indulging us when we got close and I put up the oar signalling him to raise the bridge. We had to wait though for the tide to turn to bring us home. The Trent with it's speed and current is a very dangerous place to be no matter how good a swimmer you are and I think now how silly it was and how glad all on board were safe. I was 13 at the time so that would have been in 1950 and I received a severe punishment from my parents!

Edna and I chatted about family recalling her parents Dick and Ava, her brothers Rex and Leslie and her twin sisters Rene and Iris and sister Nancy. Les served in the Navy, Rene and Iris both served in the WAAF and Rex being a little younger did National Service in the Royal Artillery. Both Nancy and Edna live in Canada, with Nancy at this time still a regular visitor home.

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© 2017 Burton upon Stather Heritage Group

© Background Photograph by Sam Ablott.