The first boy born to Alice and Edwin (Ted) Freear of Trentside, Burton Stather the young Les started his working life at the Burton upon Stather Co-Op under Manager Ted Martin. His sister Carol describes him as being of a quiet disposition and even though his Mother begged him not to sign up he obviously had strong opinions and commitment when he told her simply that it was the right thing to do. Mother Alice would never lock the back door at Trentside after he left, telling the others when she went to bed at night that they could if they wanted to but she would never lock it until Les came home for good.
It's a big jump then to find his Battalion in North Africa when Italy declared war in 1940 fighting the battles of Mersa Matruh, Sidi Barani and Torbruk.
By July 1941, with C company remaining behind in North Africa the
Vickers Machine Gunning Battalion have been sent to Malta to help defend the strategically placed island that the Axis forces were determined to starve and bomb out.
In a letter to his sister Carol dated 25/11/42 Les wrote that he was so pleased to receive
a pile of mail all at once, it is quite a long time since I have received any.
The Censor had been to work on one line of his letter regarding the sending of Christmas Cards home but he wished he was coming home for Xmas
to hang up my stocking.
The date of the letter and his comments tie up with the fact that by November 1942 the
Siege of Malta was effectively over, the Allies had landed forces in Morocco and Algeria under
Operation Torch causing The Axis to divert their forces to the Battle of Tunisia, and attacks on Malta were quickly reduced and Les finally got his pile of letters from home!
Eventually his unit returned to the UK from Italy, the family were shocked at how underweight and exhausted he was. Carol recalls him telling how scarce food had been.
Converted to an Infantry Battalion the 1st Cheshire was joined to the British Liberation Army, subsequently becoming part of the 11th Armoured Division that embarked for Holland in February 1945.
How ironic that Les was now part of the 11th Armoured Division originally organised in March 1941, under Major General Percy Hobart.
The man behind the 79th (Experimental) Armoured Division Royal Engineers, the
funnies and the secret goings on down at the bottom of Stather Hill in his home village of Burton Stather.
It is well documented now that the River Trent at Burton Stather was chosen as the site for the Water Assault Unit because of it's similarity to the Rhine.
On 23rd March 1945 the 11th Armoured Division crossed the Rhine during
Operation Plunder and a week or so later Les's words in his letter home (dated 2/4/45) to sister Carol were
Well I suppose you saw us mentioned in the papers last week, well crossing the Rhine was almost as easy as crossing the Trent.
He goes on to say that they were
cracking on fast but held up by so many German soldiers surrendering to them.
Sadly Les was killed in action just 9 days after writing this letter and it's heartbreaking to read and note his hopes for the end of hostilities.
I reckon it won't be long before it's all over now and then we can all get back home again, for good this time and get settled down to a drop of civvy life for a change.
Aged just 26 and only 3 weeks and two days away from the German surrender, he almost made it.
It's fitting then perhaps that he rests at Becklingen War Cemetery specifically chosen for its hillside position overlooking Luneburg Heath where, on 4 May 1945, Field-Marshal Montgomery accepted the German surrender from Admiral Doenitz.
A memorial seat in his name is positioned on the grass verge opposite Lindsey Terrace. Carol tells us that their Mother was glad to move from Trentside to Lindsey Terrace finding it unbearable to live in the house her son never came home too.