Announcing the Winners of the #MyMilitaryHeritage Challenge!

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Throughout November we asked you to send in stories of bravery from your family tree and enter the #MyMilitaryHeritage challenge. Your family stories of resilience have warmed our hearts. As we navigate the challenging times ahead this season, it has been so meaningful looking to our courageous ancestors for comfort and inspiration.

Here are some of the incredible treasures you sent in:

An Inspiring Uncle

Lori Love writes us:

My uncle was an amazing person. He was my mother’s oldest brother. He was born in 1917 to a second-generation Polish-American family. When he was a teen, he moved in with his Polish grandparents to help them on the farm. He got married, had a few children, and enjoyed life in the St. Cloud, Minnesota area. WWII broke out and he was drafted. At the Battle of the Bulge a mortar exploded and blew off his face. He had over 40 surgeries over the years to build a bone structure and graft skin.

He returned from the war and had one more child. He never acted like he was blind. He did home repairs, decorated the house for Christmas, gave speeches, and frequently wrote to the state leaders on any issue that concerned him. He loved to talk and tell stories, played the fiddle, and wrote with a braille typewriter. As a passenger in a car, he would give directions as if he saw, telling you when to slow down and exactly when to turn.

Below are some photos of him, a letter that he wrote to my mother from the hospital as he was learning how to type without sight, (he writes ‘noise’ for ‘nose’ and makes multiple mistakes), a few newspaper clippings, an obituary, and his tombstone. He and his wife were married for 76 years. They both died in 2014, just 5 months apart. He lived until age 97.

My uncle was an amazing person. He was my mother's oldest brother. He was born in 1917 to a 2nd generation Polish…

Posted by Lori Love on Friday, November 6, 2020

A Heroic Legacy Lives On

Charles Yancey writes us: 

“I teach 2nd graders and every year; I give them this blurb to read on Veteran’s Day. 

‘Harry W. Hughes was born in Greer County, Oklahoma Territory, near the town of Vinson on June 22, 1906. He attended the Vinson Elementary School and Norman High School. He holds an education degree from the University of Oklahoma.

While a freshman at OU in 1926, he enlisted into the Army Reserves. He was called to active duty in 1940, during the Second World War. He was promoted to Captain and led his unit to fight in Sicily in 1942. In October 1943, Hughes became a Major. During the war, he suffered 44 different wounds.  Because of his wounds, he was sent back to the U.S. to be a teacher at Fort Benning, Georgia, teaching soldiers how to fight. He also served in the Korean conflict and was wounded so seriously, he was sent back to the U.S. for good to serve as Senior Instructor of U.S. Army Schools in Oklahoma.

He was promoted to Colonel in 1953. When not involved in full-time military activities, Hughes taught school throughout Oklahoma. Hughes’ awards include the Silver Star for courage, the Bronze Star for being a hero and seven Purple Heart medals for the times he was wounded. He died at the age of 87 in 1993.’

I then tell them this is my grandfather.  They really tune into the details much more eagerly once they know this information.  

It says he enlisted into the Army Reserves. What this blurb doesn’t include is that he enlisted because they needed someone who could read the flag codes, and because Harry was a Boy Scout, he had this skill. It also doesn’t include that while fighting in Cicely (battles set up to distract the Germans for the D Day invasion) Harry successfully led one of the bloodiest battles of WWII.   

Another interesting tidbit is that Harry comes from a family of teachers and has continued to inspire teachers. My mother has an education degree. Both my sister and I are certified teachers, and now my son coaches gymnastics. What a legacy both on and off the battlefield.”

An Unsinkable Spirit

Ken McGuire tells us about how his father, Billy McGuire, survived the sinking of the HMS Repulse.

HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales were sunk on 10th December 1941 north of Singapore, off the east coast of Malaya near Kuantan. Nearly 513 sailors were lost. 

Here is a photo of four brave men who fought on the H.M.S. Repulse against the Japanese. Only one survived, the one on the extreme right. He is my father, Billy McGuire.

Sailors from the H.M.S. Repulse. Billy McGuire is at the far right. [Credit Ken McGuire]
Sailors from the H.M.S. Repulse. Billy McGuire is at the far right. [Credit Ken McGuire]

The survivors were taken to Singapore. Then when the Japanese moved in on Singapore, the men escaped to a small minesweeper, the Jarak, which they tried to sail south to Java (Indonesia). They — 48 men — were shelled by a cruiser and took to the boats, landing eventually on an uninhabited wreck. Billy McGuire and Lieutenant Huntley R.N.V.R. were the heroes of the whole affair. Two days later, the Jarak came into sight again, listing but still afloat and the men managed to board her. Somehow McGuire and Huntley got them to an Island called Saya where they scuttled the ship and took over two sampans which they sailed to Sumatra and to safety  (a sampan is a small flat-bottomed oared Chinese boat). The men then had to cross the jungle of Sumatra; at its widest point the island spans 435 km (270 mi). It is not clear how many miles the 21 men had to walk — a mixed bunch of sailors and soldiers — 100? 150 miles?

One survivor says:

“That steaming, crawling, stinking, crawling jungle of Sumatra, with leeches sucking the blood from legs and arms. Trees so thick above that the light of day never got through. With no food and no drink, a wavering exhausted line of 21 Englishmen fought on. Cutting yard by yard through the filth and the swamps. And the plaintive voice of a lone scouser (Billy McGuire) in the group sang while they sweat: “As I walk thro the jungle wi’ me little bit o’ bundle”. Weeks later, after a trip that sounds almost like fiction in this day and age, 21 of them were saved. But Bill McGuire of 7 Whitfield Place, Birkenhead, who was the scouser of the party held a reunion 14 years later (in the 1950s). According to Harri Lewis  who plodded behind him in that thin line of 21 jungle men, he was “one of the real heroes of our trek.”

From left Billy McGuire and fellow survivor [Credit: Ken McGuire]
From left Billy McGuire and fellow survivor [Credit: Ken McGuire]

A Story of Brotherhood                

Sarah Revenwood wrote to us about her great-great-uncle, Archibald Ravenwood.

He served in World War I as did 4 of his brothers, one of whom was my great-granddad (he and one of his brothers were killed in action). He also had 5 brothers serve in World War II, one of which had served in the first war, and another brother who was held prisoner of war in Changi jail because he lived in Siam when the war started.

Archibald Ravenwood 9/650 [Credit: Sarah Revenwood]
Archibald Ravenwood 9/650 [Credit: Sarah Revenwood]
This is what I know of his service:


Archibald Ravenwood 9/650

Trooper Otago Mounted Rifles

Campaign 1915–1916 Gallipoli

Left New Zealand 16 October 1914

Killed in action 30 May 1915 Gallipoli 

Age 22

Medals British War Medal, Victory Medal, 1914–1915 star

Fighting for a new homeland

Sabine Nygrund shares the following story about her great-great-uncles.

“Shortly after emigrating from a Swedish community in Finland, my great-grandmother’s brother, John and his brother, Matt, signed up to fight for Canada in WWI. They became part of the 121st Battalion and were transferred out to France to fight in the trenches. 

On April 10, 1917 while fighting at Vimy Ridge, John was hit in his left leg/hip by shrapnel. He dragged himself back to a field hospital and then was transferred back to England, but was told he may never walk again. He returned to Canada, recovered, and went on to work as a Log Boom Foreman in a Logging Camp north of Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada. 

Sabines great-great-uncle [Credit: Sabine Nygrund]
Sabine’s great-great-uncle [Credit: Sabine Nygrund]
John’s brother Matt was hit by shrapnel in his face and leg one day later. His injuries were not as severe and he would later return to the trenches.

Never forget, they fought for our freedom.”

Hundreds of Kilometers from Home

Willi Baunach from Germany writes to us about his grandfather Eugen Stockmann’s World War II experience.

Eugen Stockmann [Credit: Willi Baunach]
Eugen Stockmann [Credit: Willi Baunach]
“During World War II he was stationed in occupied France. At times he was in Bordeaux. Once he almost met his son Karl. It was a big tent in which he reported, there he was told that a Karl Stockmann had just been here. But he didn’t find him anymore.

At that time it was forbidden for soldiers to mention their whereabouts in letters. But he arranged a kind of code with his wife. He put dots under the letters in the correct order, which, when put together, revealed their whereabouts. So his family always knew where he was.

When they withdrew from France, he and his unit were transferred to Berlin to defend the capital. But he had a very sensible commander who, in view of the hopeless situation in Berlin, gave his men free time to leave! Eugen then got himself peasant clothes and ran home with a hoe on his back. He managed to make it the 600 kilometers home unrecognized.”

Overcoming Hardship

Kathrin Dohse shares the story of her grandfather, Walter Drohse.

During the time my grandfather was taken into captivity he was able to make use of his language skills (English and French), where he would translate French letters into German. 

When he returned from captivity, my uncle, who was still a toddler at the time, did not even recognize his father at first. He said to his mother: “What is this strange man doing here? He should go away again!” Of course, that affected my grandfather very much.

In the course of his life, however, my grandfather was compensated for the hardships of his war and post war years. A fortune-teller had once prophesied that the last third of his life would be the best third. That’s how it turned out. In the last third of his life he wrote several books, including one entitled “Let’s go”, which deals with his imprisonment in Belgium and France. My grandfather lived until he was 92 years old.

Image of the book cover,
Image of the book cover, “Lets go!” by Walter Dohse [Credit: Kathrin Dohse]

Winners of the MyHeritage Complete Plan

Thank you to all who sent in your family’s stories of bravery and courage. Having these powerful family narratives is such a blessing and we thank you for sharing them with us!

And now for the winners of the MyHeritage Complete plan, the best plan MyHeritage has to offer… drum roll please!

Lori Love, Sabine Nygrund, and Charles Yancey! We’ll contact you soon to award you your MyHeritage Complete plans.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season filled with lots of genealogy!

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  • Mrs Chandra fernandez


    December 19, 2020

    I am from Sri.lanka. my maternal uncle anthony george gordon Lambert fernando born 1915 served in the ceylon army during ww2. Think he was posted to Palestine/middle east. I dont hv details but do hv a picture of him in army uniform