Brothers at war

Fred Hepworth served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War
Fred Hepworth served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War
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FOLLOWING on from her recent articles about her family, Sam Hepworth looks at three brothers from Heckmondwike who all served in World War II.

THE Hepworth family would regularly go to pubs and clubs around Heckmondwike, where they would stand around the piano socialising and singing together.

Percy, Sam's father, is on the bottom right of the photograph along with his Navy coleagues. The picture was taken in 1942 when he first joined up

Percy, Sam's father, is on the bottom right of the photograph along with his Navy coleagues. The picture was taken in 1942 when he first joined up

They were a close family, all looking out for each other.

But as World War II commenced, the three brothers Fred, Harry and Percy went to war separately and alone they suffered tests of endurance, which none of them wanted to speak about afterwards.

Fred was the eldest son of John and Florrie Hepworth, and was a member of The Royal Navy during the war.

According to a letter sent to his brother, Harry, in 1940, Fred’s ship was sunk and the crew needed to be rescued.

Harry Hepworth, bottom left, believed to be in North Africa

Harry Hepworth, bottom left, believed to be in North Africa

In the photograph of Fred he is wearing a hat for HMS Drake and must have served on this early on in the war.

Harry enlisted in the army; pictures of his regiment suggest they were stationed in North Africa at one point, but by the end of the war, the family learnt he had been in a Japanese POW camp.

When he was found in the camp his family were later told he was just a pile of bones. Rescuers thought he had not survived the harsh conditions, but his hand started to move and they realised he was still alive.

Harry was finally taken back to England the long way home, in order to put some weight on.

He became a postman and died aged 80, outliving all his brothers.

Percy was the youngest brother and joined the war in 1942 aged 18, becoming an Able Seaman in The Royal Navy.

In the early hours of January 30, 1944, whilst serving on HMS Hardy, his ship was hit by a torpedo from an attack by a German U-boat.

Percy and many other seamen ended up in the Arctic Sea, fighting for their lives.

The choppy January waters would have meant certain death if he had stayed in more than a few minutes, but was soon rescued by the allies.

Only eight members of HMS Hardy were said to have survived the blast and the cold waters. Percy continued serving on many ships, including HMS Drake, like Fred.

He left the Royal Navy due to ill health in 1947, ending up in a TB Hospital in Ilkley. There he met a nurse and they married on February 12, 1949.

But she never knew what happened to him during the war, until after he died aged 53.

All their names are mentioned in a book published locally called Their Finest Hour.

The book contains a list of all the people in the Spenborough area, who played their part in the war effort.