Leslie Owen Bent 14421988
I had a letter arrive this week, the only thing that made it stand out from all the other bits of mail was the fact it was addressed to Extreme Relic Hunters and not just me :) a very positive sign that it wasn't just a utility bill. I opened the A5 brown envelope and slid out all the contents, a covering letter from Sandra Withers who is the daughter of Leslie, a whole stack of original photographs, a few photocopies of a notebook and an S.A.E for returning the photographs.
I read read over the notes that were inside, these were written by Leslie before his death and gives an overview of his life. Born at the family home in Liverpool in 1925 where he lived until the family moved down to Waterloo in 1932. The his collection of siblings grew very quickly and he already had two when he was born, I can imagine the family home being very alive with 7 children. With war servicing calling him, on the 5th July 1941 Leslie went to the the RAF first and he volunteered as an Air Gunner. However, he was only 16 years old at the time and when the found out his true age he was 'discouraged'. However, clearly he wanted to do his part and in September 1942 he volunteered again, this time with Royal Armoured Corps.
After training at Bovington he served all his time in the warmer places during WW2. North Africa, Italy and then out to the Middle East and then Palestine until sometime in 1946 when he returned home.
From the photographs it is clear that like some of the other soldiers we have come across in the Forgotten Army, he is what I have started to call a "badge swapper". In his photographs we can clearly see an RAC cap badge, later a Recce cap badge and others too! Upon examining a favourite of mine, he is sat upon an army motorbike, clearly wearing a D.R. trade badge (Dispatch Rider), Reconnaissance Corps shoulder title and cap badge and also other insignia.
Almost all of the photographs are dated and noted on the reverse as to who is in them and where they were taken. The first photograph where I can see a D.R. patch is Feb 1946. So
although he didn't have a patch before this date, he could have been in the roll the entire war for all we know. Although riding around on a motorbike during war time could be hazardous it to say the least, did have certain its privileges too. Given more freedom the most serving soldiers were permitted, being able to go out on your own and although you would still have your orders, it would just be you and your machine for company. "No other vehicle could offer so them so much freedom, and freedom was after all what the war was supposed to be about." -a quote from The Winged Wheel Patch.
I can't thank Sandra enough for sharing these fabulous photos with us, not only that but also it was believed that the 14xxxxxx series dog-tags as issued by the General Service Corps were issued for soldiers that were called up, however Leslie volunteered when he was 17 1/2! So another myth disposed of. The General Service Corps would process not only all the draftees, but also the volunteers would also be churned through their mill as well.
Prisoners of World War 1, World War 2 and the Forgotten Korean War.
Now although we have started researching and looking into all the Second World War soldiers first, I did punch in a few thousand names into the FWR website. Almost all of which were a great big fat waste of time, except a couple. There was a couple of wounded in the 1950's during the Korean War, a couple of Long Service Good Conduct medals (LSGC) and a solitary PoW captured during the Korean War. Now at the time of learning this I knew nothing about the Korean War, but I was excited about learning about a conflict that until now I had not a shred of interest in. I started with the PoW and I happened upon a book called 'British Prisoners of the Korean War' whilst on in Derbyshire last week. I have only read two chapters, but even during the first few pages I learnt about the significance of this dog-tag.
During World War 1 and 2 Commonwealth soldiers that have been prisoners of war have all ways been of interest to military historians, yet the Korean War has almost completely been over looked. Many reasons led to this, the previous two been considered much more interesting conflicts and also the scales of prisoners range greatly. During the Korean War only around a 1,000 servicemen were captured and held by the enemy, as opposed to 194,000 during World War 1 and 365,000 during World War 2. Also, there are hundreds of publications written by former PoW's from WW1 & WW2, yet less than half a dozen came out after the aftermath of the Korean War. There have been a few more published many years later, some fairly recently, but these are all fairly unheard of and rarely seen books. I will however track some of them down and get a more detailed study done of first hand accounts from survivors. If anyone reading this has any information on this subject, please get in touch.
What starts as a dog-tag with the details 'HE Hogg 19042502' on it, after a quick FWR search. He suddenly becomes Corporal HE Hogg 19042502 of the 8th Hussars, captured during the Korean War on the 03/01/1951 (That's January for you Americans, not March!).
After that a quick Google Search reveals he was in a PoW unit numbered '28b' and held in camp number 1 which is very close to the country border of China, but better still is that his first initial stands for Hugh.
Of course this is only the start of this particular dog-tag's story... this is only two quick online searches... is there anything more out there to find out? Who knows.